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The Secret Life 
of Plants 

A fascinating account of the 
physical, emotional, and spiritual 
between plants and man. 

Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird 
authors of Secrets of the Soil 

“Once in a while you find a book that stuns you. Its scope leaves 

you breathless. This is such a book.” - John White, San Francisco Chronicle 


Peter Tompkins 


Christopher Bird 

HarpcrCollins Publishers India 

HarperCollins Publishers India Pvt Ltd 

7/16 Ansari Road, Daryaganj, New Delhi 110 002 
First Published by Harper & Row, Publishers, Inc. 
Copyright © Peter Tompkins and Christopher Bird 1973 
First published in India by 
HarperCollins Publishers India 2000 
All rights reserved. 

No part of this book may be used or reproduced 
in any manner whatsoever without written permission 
except in the case of brief quotations embodied in 
critical articles and reviews. 

ISBN 81-7223-408-2 
Printed in India by 
Rekha Printer Pvt Ltd 
A-102/1 Okhla Industrial Area 
New Delhi 


Acknowledgments vii 
Introduction viii 



1 Plants and ESP 


2 Plants Can Read Your Mind 


3 Plants That Open Doors 


4 Visitors from Space 


5 Latest Soviet Discoveries 




6 Plant Life Magnified 100 Million Times 


7 The Metamorphosis of Plants 


8 Plants Will Grow to Please You 


9 Wizard of Tuskegee 




10 The Harmonic Life of Plants 145 

11 Plants and Electromagnetism 163 

12 Force Fields, Humans and Plants 178 

13 The Mystery of Plant and Human Auras 200 



14 Soil: The Staff of Life 217 

15 Chemicals, Plants and Man 240 

16 Live Plants or Dead Planets 259 

17 Alchemists in the Garden 274 



18 Dowsing Plants for Health 295 

19 Radionic Pesticides 317 

20 Mind Over Matter 343 

21 Findhorn and the Garden of Eden 361 

Bibliography 375 

Index 393 


The authors wish to express their gratitude to all who have helped 
them in the compilation of this book, which required extensive research 
in Europe, the Soviet Union, and the United States. 

They are especially grateful to the staff of the U.S. Library of Congress 
and in particular to Legare H. B. Obear, Chief of the Loan 
Division, and to his most helpful assistants. In the Stack and Reader 
Division, they wish to thank Dudley B. Ball, Roland C. Maheux, William 
Sartain, Lloyd A. Pauls, and Benjamin Swinson, who saved them 
much anxiety by caring for their shelved books. 

Thanks are also due to Robert V. Allen of the Slavic and Central 
European Division, and Dolores Moyano Martin, of the Latin American 
Division, Library of Congress, and to Lida L. Allen of the National 
Agricultural Library, Beltsville, Maryland. 

Very special thanks are due to two Muscovite scientists, biophysicist 
Dr. Viktor Adamenko, well known for his research on bio-energetics, 
and Professor Sinikov, Director of Studies; of the Timiryazev Academy 
of Agricultural Sciences, both of whom kindly and promptly replied to 
requests for data and references unavailable in the United States, as did 
M. Rostislav Donn, Commercial Counselor of the French Embassy in 

Lastly the authors are grateful to their respective helpmates, without 
whom the book would never have reached the printer. 


Short of Aphrodite, there is nothing lovelier on this planet than a flower, 
nor more essential than a plant. The true matrix of human life is the 
greensward covering mother earth. Without green plants we would 
neither breathe nor eat. On the undersurface of every leaf a million 
movable lips are engaged in devouring carbon dioxide and expelling 
oxygen. All together, 25 million square miles of leaf surface are daily 
engaged in this miracle of photosynthesis, producing oxygen and food 
for man and beast. 

Of the 375 billion tons of food we consume each yearthe bulk comes 
from plants, which synthesize it out of air and soil with the help of 


sunlight. The remainder comes from animal products, which in turn are 
derived from plants. All the food, drink, intoxicants, drugs and medicines 
that keep man alive and, if properly used, radiantly healthy are ours 
through the sweetness of photosynthesis. Sugar produces all our 
starches, fats, oils, waxes, cellulose. From crib to coffin, man relies on 
cellulose as the basis for his shelter, clothing, fuel, fibers, basketry, 
cordage, musical instruments, and the paper on which he scribbles his 
philosophy. The abundance of plants profitably used by man is indicated 
by nearly six hundred pages in Uphof's Dictionary of Economic Plants. 
Agriculture-as the economists agree-is the basis for a nation's wealth. 
Instinctively aware of the aesthetic vibrations of plants, which are 
spiritually satisfying, human beings are happiest and most comfortable 
when living with flora. At birth, marriage, death, blossoms are prerequisites, 
as they are at mealtime or festivities. We give plants and flowers 
as tokens of love, of friendship, or homage, and of thanks for hospitality. 

Our houses are adorned with gardens, our cities with parks, our nations 
with national preserves. The first thing a woman does to make a room 
livable is to place a plant in it or a vase of fresh cut flowers. Most men, 
if pressed, might describe paradise, whether in heaven or on earth, as 
a garden filled with luxuriant orchids, uncut, frequented by a nymph or 

Aristotle's dogma that plants have souls but no sensation lasted 
through the Middle Ages and into the eighteenth century, when Carl 
von Linne, grandfather of modem botany, declared that plants differ 
from animals and humans only in their lack of movement, a conceit 
which was shot down by the great nineteenth-century botanist Charles 
Darwin, who proved that every tendril has its power of independent 
movement. As Darwin put it, plants "acquire and display this power only 
when it is of some advantage to them." 

At the beginning of the twentieth century a gifted Viennese biologist 
with the Gallic name of Raoul France put forth the idea, shocking to 
contemporary natural philosophers, that plants move their bodies as 
freely, easily, and gracefully as the most skilled animal or human, and 
that the only reason we don't appreciate the fact is that plants do so at 
a much slower pace than humans. 


The roots of plants, said France, burrow inquiringly into the earth, 
the buds and twigs swing in definite circles, the leaves and blossoms 
bend and shiver with change, the tendrils circle questingly and reach out 
with ghostly arms to feel their surroundings. Man, said France, merely 
thinks plants motionless and feelingless because he will not take the time 
to watch them. 

Poets and philosophers such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and 
Rudolf Steiner, who took the trouble to watch plants, discovered that 
they grow in opposite directions, partly burrowing into the ground as if 
attracted by gravity, partly shooting up into the air as if pulled by some 
form of antigravity, or levity. 

Wormlike rootlets, which Darwin likened to a brain, burrow constantly 
downward with thin white threads, crowding themselves firmly 
into the soil, tasting it as they go. Small hollow chambers in which a ball 
of starch can rattle indicate to the root tips the direction of the pull of 

When the earth is dry, the roots turn toward moister ground, finding 
their way into buried pipes, stretching, as in the case of the lowly alfalfa 
plant, as far as forty feet, developing an energy that can bore through 
concrete. No one has yet counted the roots of a tree, but a study of a 
single rye plant indicates a total of over 13 million rootlets with a 
combined length of 380 miles. On these rootlets of a rye plant are fine 
root hairs estimated to number some 14 billion with a total length of 
6,600 miles, almost the distance from pole to pole. 

As the special burrowing cells are worn out by contact with stones, 
pebbles, and large grains of sand, they are rapidly replaced, but when 
they reach a source of nourishment they die and are replaced by cells 
designed to dissolve mineral salts and collect the resulting elements. 

This basic nourishment is passed from cell to cell up through the plant, 
which constitutes a single unit of protoplasm, a watery or gelatinous 
substance considered the basis of physical life. 

The root is thus a water pump, with water acting as a universal solvent, 
raising elements from root to leaf, evaporating and falling back to earth 
to act once more as the medium for this chain of life. The leaves of an 
ordinary sunflower will transpire in a day as much water as a man 


perspires. On a hot day a single birch can absorb as much as four 
hundred quarts, exuding cooling moisture through its leaves. 

No plant, says France, is without movement; all growth is a series of 
movements; plants are constantly preoccupied with bending, turning 
and quivering. He describes a summer day with thousands of polyplike 
arms reaching from a peaceful arbor, trembling, quivering in their eagerness 
for new support for the heavy stalk that grows behind them. When 
the tendril, which sweeps a full circle in sixty-seven minutes, finds a 
perch, within twenty seconds it starts to curve around the object, and 
within the hour has wound itself so firmly it is hard to tear away. The 
tendril then curls itself like a corkscrew and in so doing raises the vine 
to itself. 

A climbing plant which needs a prop will creep toward the nearest 
support. Should this be shifted, the vine, within a few hours, will change 
its course into the new direction. Can the plant see the pole? Does it 
sense it in some unfathomed way? If a plant is growing between obstructions 
and cannot see a potential support it will unerringly grow toward 
a hidden support, avoiding the area where none exists. 

Plants, says France, are capable of intent- they can stretch toward, or 
seek out, what they want in ways as mysterious as the most fantastic 
creations of romance. 

Far from existing inertly, the inhabitants of the pasture-or what the 
ancient Hellenes called botone-appear to be able to perceive and to 
react to what is happening in their environment at a level of sophistication 
far surpassing that of humans. 

The sundew plant will grasp at a fly with infallible accuracy, moving 
in just the right direction toward where the prey is to be found. Some 
parasitical plants can recognize the slightest trace of the odor of their 
victim, and will overcome all obstacles to crawl in its direction. 

Plants seem to know which ants will steal their nectar, closing when 
these ants are about, opening only when there is enough dew on their 
stems to keep the ants from climbing. The more sophisticated acacia 
actually enlists the protective services of certain ants which it rewards 
with nectar in return for the ants' protection against other insects and 
herbivorous mammals. 


Is it chance that plants grow into special shapes to adapt to the 
idiosyncrasies of insects which will pollinate them, luring these insects 
with special color and fragrance, rewarding them with their favorite 
nectar, devising extraordinary canals and Horal machinery with which to 
ensnare a bee so as to release it through a trap door only when the 
pollination process is completed? 

Is it really nothing but a reflex or coincidence that a plant such as the 
orchid Trichoceros parviflorus will grow its petals to imitate the female 
of a species of fly so exactly that the male attempts to mate with it and 
in so doing pollinates the orchid? Is it pure chance that night-blossoming 
flowers grow white the better to attract night moths and night-flying 
butterflies, emitting a stronger fragrance at dusk, or that the carrion lily 
develops the smell of rotting meat in areas where only flies abound, 
whereas flowers which rely on the wind to cross-pollinate the species do 
not waste energy on making themselves beautiful, fragrant or appealing 
to insects, but remain relatively unattractive? 

To protect themselves plants develop thorns, a bitter taste, or gummy 
secretions that catch and kill unfriendly insects. The timorous Mimosa 
pudica has a mechanism which reacts whenever a beetle or an ant or 
a worm crawls up its stem toward its delicate leaves: as the intruder 
touches a spur the stem raises, the leaves fold up, and the assailant is 
either rolled off the branch by the unexpected movement or is obliged 
to draw back in fright. 

Some plants, unable to find nitrogen in swampy land, obtain it by 
devouring living creatures. There are more than five hundred varieties 
of carnivorous plants, eating any kind of meat from insect to beef, using 
endlessly cunning methods to capture their prey, from tentacles to sticky 
hairs to funnel-like traps. The tentacles of carnivorous plants are not only 
mouths but stomachs raised on poles with which to seize and eat their 
prey, to digest both meat and blood, and leave nothing but a skeleton. 
Insect-devouring sundews pay no attention to pebbles, bits of metal, 
or other foreign substances placed on their leaves, but are quick to sense 
the nourishment to be derived from a piece of meat. Darwin found that 
the sundew can be excited when a piece of thread is laid on it weighing 
no more than 1/78,000 of a grain. A tendril, which next to the rootlets 


constitutes the most sensitive portion of a plant, will bend if a piece of 
silk thread is laid across it weighing but .00025 of a gram. 

The ingenuity of plants in devising forms of construction far exceeds 
that of human engineers. Man-made structures cannot match the supply 
strength of the long hollow tubes that support fantastic weights against 
terrific storms. A plant's use of fibers wrapped in spirals is a mechanism 
of great resistance against tearing not yet developed by human ingenuity. 
Cells elongate into sausages or Hat ribbons locked one to the 
other to form almost unbreakable cords. As a tree grows upward it 
scientifically thickens to support the greater weight. 

The Australian eucalyptus can raise its head on a slim trunk above the 
ground 480 feet, or as high as the Great Pyramid of Cheops, and certain 
walnuts can hold a harvest of 100,000 nuts. The Virginia knotweed can 
tie a sailor's knot which is put to such a strain when it dries that it snaps; 
hurling the seeds to germinate as far as possible from mother. 

Plants are even sentient to orientation and to the future. Frontiersmen 
and hunters in the prairies of the Mississippi Valley discovered a 
sunflower plant, Silphium laciniatum, whose leaves accurately indicate 
the points of the compass. Indian licorice, or Arbrus precatorius, is so 
keenly sensitive to all forms of electrical and magnetic influences it is 
used as a weather plant. Botanists who first experimented with it in 
London's Kew Gardens found in it a means for predicting cyclones, 
hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. 

So accurate are alpine flowers about the seasons, they know when 
spring is coming and bore their way up through lingering snowbanks, 
developing their own heat with which to melt the snow. 

Plants which react so certainly, so variously, and so promptly to the 
outer world, must, says France, have some means of communicating 
with the outer world, something comparable or superior to our senses. 
France insists that plants are constantly observing and recording events 
and phenomena of which man-trapped in his anthropocentric view of 
the world, subjectively revealed to him through his five senses-knows 

Whereas plants have been almost universally looked upon as senseless 
automata, they have now been found to be able to distinguish between 
sounds inaudible to the human ear and color wavelengths such as infra- 


red and ultraviolet invisible to the human eye; they are specially sensitive 
to X-rays and to the high frequency of television. 

The whole vegetal world, says France, lives responsive to the movement 
of the earth and its satellite moon, to the movement of the other 
planets of our solar system, and one day will be shown to be affected by 
the stars and other cosmic bodies in the universe. 

As the external form of a plant is kept a unit and restored whenever 
part of it is destroyed, France assumes there must be some conscious 
entity supervising the entire form , some intelligence directing the plant, 
either from within, or from without. 

Over half a century ago France, who believed plants to be possessed 
of all the attributes of living creatures including "the most violent 
reaction against abuse and the most ardent gratitude for favors," could 
have written a Secret Life of Plants, but what he had already put into 
print was either ignored by the establishment or considered heretically 
shocking. What shocked them most was his suggestion that the awareness 
of plants might originate in a supramaterial world of cosmic beings 
to which, long before the birth of Christ, the Hindu sages referred as 
"devas" and which, as fairies, elves, gnomes, sylphs and a host of other 
creatures, were a matter of direct vision and experience to clairvoyants 
among the Celts and other sensitives. The idea was considered by 
vegetal scientists to be as charmingly jejune as it was hopelessly romantic. 
It has taken the startling discoveries of several scientific minds in the 
1960s to bring the plant world sharply back to the attention of mankind. 
Even so there are skeptics who find it hard to believe that plants may 
at last be the bridesmaids at a marriage of physics and metaphysics. 
Evidence now supports the vision of the poet and the philosopher that 
plants are living, breathing, communicating creatures, endowed with 
personality and the attributes of soul. It is only we, in our blindness, who 
have insisted on considering them automata. Most extraordinary, it now 
appears that plants may be ready, willing, and able to cooperate with 
humanity in the Flerculean job of turning this planet back into a garden 
from the squalor and corruption of what England's pioneer ecologist 
William Cobbett would have called a "wen." 



Plants and ESP 

The dust-grimed window 01 the office building lacing New York's Times 
Square reflected, as through a looking glass, an extraordinary corner 01 
Wonderland. There was no White Rabbit with waistcoat and watch 
chain, only an elfin-eared fellow called Backster with a galvanometer and 
a house plant called Dracaena massangeana. The galvanometer was 
there because Cleve Backster was America's foremost lie-detector examiner; 
the dracaena because Backster's secretary felt the bare office should 
have a touch of green; Backster was there because of a fatal step taken 
in the 1960s which radically affected his life, and may equally affect the 

Backster's antics with his plants, headlined in the world press, became 
the subject of skits, cartoons, and lampoons; but the Pandora's box 
which he opened for science may never again be closed. Backster's 
discovery that plants appear to be sentient caused strong and varied 
reaction round the globe, despite the fact that Backster never claimed 
a discovery, only an uncovering of what has been known and forgotten. 
Wisely he chose to avoid publicity, and concentrated on establishing the 
absolute scientific bona fides of what has come to be known as the 
"Backster Effect." 

The adventure started in 1966. Backster had been up all night in his 
school for polygraph examiners, where he teaches the art of lie detection 
to policemen and security agents from around the world. On impulse 
he decided to attach the electrodes of one of his lie detectors to the leaf 
of his dracaena. The dracaena is a tropical plant similar to a palm tree, 
with large leaves and a dense cluster of small flowers; it is known as the 
dragon tree (Latin draco) because of the popular myth that its resin 
yields dragon blood. Backster was curious to see if the leaf would be 
affected by water poured on its roots, and if so, how, and how soon. 

As the plant thirstily sucked water up its stem, the galvanometer, to 
Backster's surprise, did not indicate less resistance, as might have been 
expected by the greater electrical conductivity of the moister plant. The 
pen on the graph paper, instead of trending upward, was trending 
downward, with a lot of sawtooth motion on the tracing. 

A galvanometer is that part of a polygraph lie detector which, when 
attached to a human being by wires through which a weak current of 
electricity is run, will cause a needle to move, or a pen to make a tracing 
on a moving graph of paper, in response to mental images, or the 
slightest surges of human emotion. Invented at the end of the eighteenth 
century by a Viennese priest. Father Maximilian Hell, S.J., court 
astronomer to the Empress Maria Theresa, it was named after Luigi 
Galvani, the Italian physicist and physiologist who discovered "animal 
electricity." The galvanometer is now used in conjunction with an 
electrical circuit called a "Wheatstone bridge," in honor of the English 
physicist and inventor of the automatic telegraph. Sir Charles Wheatstone. 


Backster's antics with his plants, headlined in the world press, became 
the subject of skits, cartoons, and lampoons; but the Pandora’s bo* 
which he opened for science may never again be closed. Backster’s 
discovery that plants appear to be sentient caused strong and varied 
reaction round the globe, despite the fact that Backster never claimed 
a discovery, only an uncovering of what has been known and forgotten. 
Wisely he chose to avoid publicity, and concentrated on establishing the 
absolute scientific bona fides of what has come to be known as the 
“Backster Effect.” 

1 he adventure started in 1966. Backster had been up all night in his 
school for polygraph examiners, where he teaches the art of lie detection 
to policemen and security agents from around the world. On impulse 
he decided to attach the electrodes of one of his lie detectors to the leaf 
of his dracaena. The dracaena is a tropical plant similar to a palm tree, 
with large leaves and a dense cluster of small flowers; it is known as the 
dragon tree (Latin draco) because of the popular myth that its resin 
yields dragon blood. Backster was curious to see if the leaf would be 
affected by water poured on its roots, and if so, how, and how soon. 

As the plant thirstily sucked water up its stem, the galvanometer, to 
Backster’s surprise, did not indicate less resistance, as might have been 
expected by the greater electrical conductivity of the moister plant. The 
pen on the graph paper, instead of trending upward, was trending 
downward, with a lot of sawtooth motion on the tracing. 

A galvanometer is that part of a polygraph lie detector which, when 
attached to a human being by wires through which a weak current of 
electricity is run, will cause a needle to move, or a pen to make a tracing 
on a moving graph of paper, in response to mental images, or the 
slightest surges of human emotion. Invented at the end of the eigh- 
teenth century by a Viennese priest, Father Maximilian Hell, S.J., court 
astronomer to the Empress Maria Theresa, it was named after Luigi 
Galvani, the Italian physicist and physiologist who discovered “animal 
electricity.” The galvanometer is now used in conjunction with an 
electrical circuit called a “Wheatstone bridge,” in honor of the English 
physicist and inventor of the automatic telegraph. Sir Charles Wheat¬ 


In simple terms, the bridge balances resistance, so that the human 
body’s electrical potential—or basic charge—can be measured as it 
fluctuates under the stimulus of thought and emotion. The standard 
police usage is to feed “carefully structured” questions to a suspect and 
watch for those which cause the needle to jump. Veteran examiners, 
such as Backster, claim they can identify deception from the patterns 
produced on the graph. 

Backster’s dragon tree, to his amazement, was giving him a reaction 
very similar to that of a human being experiencing an emotional stimu¬ 
lus of short duration. Could the plant be displaying emotion? 

What happened to Backster in the next ten minutes was to revolu¬ 
tionize his life. 

The most effective way to trigger in a human being a reaction strong 
enough to make the galvanometer jump is to threaten his or her well¬ 
being. Backster decided to do just that to the plant: he dunked a leaf 
of the dracaena in the cup of hot coffee perennially in his hand. There 
was no reaction to speak of on the meter. Backster studied the problem 
several minutes, then conceived a worse threat: he would burn the actual 
leaf to which the electrodes were attached. The instant he got the 
picture of flame in his mind, and before he could move for a match, 
there was a dramatic change in the tracing pattern on the graph in the 
form of a prolonged upward sweep of the recording pen. Backster had 
not moved, either toward the plant or toward the recording machine. 
Gould the plant have been reading his mind? 

When Backster left the room and returned with some matches, he 
found another sudden surge had registered on the chart, evidently 
caused by his determination to carry out the threat. Reluctantly he set 
about burning the leaf. This time there was a lower peak of reaction on 
the graph. Later, as he went through the motions of pretending he 
would bum the leaf, there was no reaction whatsoever. The plant ap¬ 
peared to be able to differentiate between real and pretended intent. 

Backster felt like running into the street and shouting to the world. 

Plants can think!” Instead he plunged into the most meticulous investi¬ 
gation of the phenomena in order to establish just how the plant was 
reacting to his thoughts, and through what medium. 

Plants and ESP 5 

His first move was to make sure he had not overlooked any logical 
explanation for the occurrence. Was there something extraordinary 
about the plant? About him? About the particular polygraph instru¬ 

When he and his collaborators, using other plants and other instru¬ 
ments in other locations all over the country, were able to make similar 
observations, the matter warranted further study. More than twenty-five 
different varieties of plants and fruits were tested, including lettuce, 
onions, oranges, and bananas. The observations, each similar to the 
others, required a new view of life, with some explosive connotations for 
science. Heretofore the debate between scientists and parapsychologists 
on the existence of ESP, or extrasensory perception, has been fierce, 
largely because of the difficulty of establishing unequivocally when such 
a phenomenon is actually occurring. The best that has been achieved 
so far in the field, by Dr. J. B. Rhine, who initiated his experiments in 
ESP at Duke University, has been to establish that with human beings 

the phenomenon seems to occur with greater odds than are attributable 
to chance. 

Backster first considered his plants' capacity for picking up his inten¬ 
tion to be some form of ESP; then he quarreled with the term. ESP is 
held to mean perception above and beyond varieties of the established 
five sensory perceptions of touch, sight, sound, smell, and taste. As 
plants give no evidence of eyes, ears, nose, or mouth, and as botanists 
since Darwin's time have never credited them with a nervous system, 
Backster concluded that the perceiving sense must be more basic. 

This led him to hypothesize that the five senses in humans might be 
limiting factors overlying a more “primary perception," possibly com¬ 
mon to all nature. “Maybe plants see better without eyes," Backster 
surmised: “better than humans do with them." With the five basic 
senses, humans have the choice, at will, of perceiving, perceiving poorly, 
not perceiving at all. “If you don't like the looks of something,” said 
Backster, you can look the other way, or not look. If everyone were to 
be in everyone else's mind all the time it would be chaos.” 

To discover what his plants could sense or feel, Backster enlarged his 

office, and set about creating a proper scientific laboratory, worthy of the 
space age. 


During the next few months, chart after chart was obtained from all 
sorts of plants. The phenomenon appeared to persist even if the plant 
leaf was detached from the plant, or if it was trimmed to the size of the 
electrodes; amazingly, even if a leaf was shredded and redistributed 
between the electrode surfaces there was still a reaction on the chart. 
The plants reacted not only to threats from human beings, but to 
unformulated threats, such as the sudden appearance of a dog in the 
room or of a person wKo did not wish them well. 

Backster was able to demonstrate to a group at Yale that the move¬ 
ments of a spider in the same room with a plant wired to his equipment 
could cause dramatic changes in the recorded pattern generated by the 
plant just before the spider started to scamper away from a human 
attempting .to restrict its movement. “It seems,” said Backster, “as if 
each of the spider’s decisions to escape was being picked up by the plant, 
causing a reaction in the leaf.” 

Under normal circumstances, plants may be attuned to each other, 
said Backster, though when encountering animal life they tend to pay 
less attention to what another plant may be up to. “The last thing a plant 
expects is another plant to give it trouble. So long as there is animal life 
around, they seem to be attuned to animal life. Animals and people are 
mobile, and could need careful monitoring.” 

If a plant is threatened with overwhelming danger or damage, 
Backster observed that it reacts self-defensively in a way similar to an 
opossum—or, indeed, to a human being—by “passing out,” or going 
into a deep faint. The phenomenon was dramatically demonstrated one 
day when a physiologist from Canada came to Backster’s lab to witness 
the reaction of his plants. The first plant gave no response whatsoever. 
Nor did the second; nor the third. Backster checked his polygraph 
instruments, and tried a fourth and a fifth plant; still no success. Finally, 

on the sixth, there was enough reaction to demonstrate the phenome¬ 

Curious to discover what could have influenced the other plants, 
Backster asked: “Does any part of your work involve harming plants?” 

Yes,” the physiologist replied. “I terminate the plants I work with. 
I put them in an oven and roast them to obtain their dry weight for my 


Plants and ESP 7 


Forty-five minutes after the physiologist was safely on the way to the 
airport, each of Backster’s plants once more responded fluidly on the 

This experience helped to bring Backster to the realization that plants 
could intentionally be put into a faint, or mesmerized, by humans, that 
something similar could be involved in the ritual of the slaughterer 
before an animal is killed in the kosher manner. Communicating with 
the victim, the killer may tranquilize it into a quiet death, also prevent¬ 
ing its flesh from having a residue of “chemical fear/' disagreeable tc 
the palate and perhaps noxious to the consumer. This brought up the 
possibility that plants and succulent fruits might wish to be eaten, but 
only in a sort of loving ritual, with a real communication between the 
eater and the eaten—somehow akin to the Christian rite of Communion 
—instead of the usual heartless carnage. 

“It may be,” says Backster, “that a vegetable appreciates becoming 
part of another form of life rather than rotting on the ground, just as 
a human at death may experience relief to find himself in a higher realm 
of being.” 

On one occasion, to show that plants and single cells were picking up 
signals through some unexplained medium of communication, Backster 
provided a demonstration for the author of an article appearing in the 
Baltimore Sun, subsequently condensed in tbe Reader's Digest 
Backster hooked a galvanometer to his philodendron, then addressed the 
writer as if it were he who was on the meter, and interrogated him about 
his year of birth. 

Backster named each of seven years between 1925 and 1931 to whicli 
the reporter was instructed to answer with a uniform “No,” Backstei 
then selected from the chart the correct date, which had been indicatec 
by the plant with an extra high flourish. 

The same experiment was duplicated by a professional psychiatrist 
the medical director of the research ward at Rockland State Hospital it 
Orangeburg, New York, Dr. Aristide H. Esser. He and his collaborator 
Douglas Dean, a chemist at Newark College of Engineering, experi 
mented with a male subject who brought along a philodendron he hat 
nursed from a seedling and had cared for tenderly. 


The two scientists attached a polygraph to the plant and then asked 
the owner a series of questions, to some of which he had been instructed 
to give false answers. The plant had no difficulty indicating through the 
galvanometer the questions which were falsely answered; Dr. Esser, who 
at first had laughed at Backster’s claim, admitted, “Pve had to eat my 
own words.” 

To see if a plant could display memory, a scheme was devised whereby 
Backster was to try to identify the secret killer of one of two plants. Six 
of Backster’s polygraph students volunteered for the experiment, some 
of them veteran policemen. Blindfolded, the students drew from a hat 
folded slips of paper, on one of which were instructions to root up, stamp 
on, and thoroughly destroy one of two plants in a room. The criminal 
was to commit the crime in secret; neither Backster nor any of the other 
students was to know his identity; only the second plant would be a 

By attaching the surviving plant to a polygraph and parading the 
students one by one before it, Backster was able to establish the culprit. 
Sure enough, the plant gave no reaction to five of the students, but 
caused the meter to go wild whenever the actual culprit approached. 
Backster was careful to point out that the plant could have picked up 
and reflected the guilt feelings of the culprit; but as the villain had acted 
in the interests of science, and was not particularly guilty, it left the 
possibility that a plant could remember and recognize the source of 
severe harm to its fellow. 

In another series of observations, Backster noted that a special com¬ 
munion or bond of affinity appeared to be created between a plant and 
its keeper, unaffected by distance. With the use of synchronized stop¬ 
watches, Backster was able to note that his plants continued to react to 
his thought and attention from the next room, from down the hall, even 
from several buildings away. Back from a fifteen-mile trip to New Jersey, 
Backster was able to establish that his plants had perked up and shown 
definite and positive signs of response—whether it was relief or welcome 
he could not tell—at the very moment he had decided to return to New 


When Backster was away on a lecture tour and talked about his initial 

Plants and ESP 9 

1966 observation, showing a slide of the original dracaena, the plant, 
back in his office, would show a reaction on the chart at the very time 
he projected the slide, 

Once attuned to a particular person, plants appeared to be able to 
maintain a link with that person, no matter where he went, even among 
thousands of people. On New Year’s Eve in New York City, Backster 
went out into the bedlam of Times Square armed with a notebook and 
stopwatch. Mingling with the crowd, he noted his various actions, such 
as walking, running, going underground by way of subway stairs, nearly 
getting run over, and having a mild fracas with a news vendor. Back at 
the lab, he found that each of three plants, monitored independently, 
showed similar reactions to his slight emotional adventures. 

To see if he could get a reaction from plants at a much greater 
distance, Backster experimented with a female friend to establish 
whether her plants remained attuned to her on a seven-hundred-mile 
plane ride across the United States. From synchronized clocks they 
found a definite reaction from the plants to the friend’s emotional stress 
each time the plane touched down for its landing. 

To test a plant’s reaction at still greater distances, even millions of 
miles, to see if space is a limit to the “primary perception” of his plants, 
Backster would like the Mars probers to place a plant with a galvanome¬ 
ter on or near that planet so as to check by telemeter the plant’s reaction 
to emotional changes in its caretaker at ground control on earth. 

Since “telemetered” radio or TV signals traveling via electromagnetic 
waves at the speed of light take between six and six and one-half minutes 
to reach Mars and as many to return to Earth, the question was whether 
an emotional signal from an earthbound human would reach Mars faster 
than an electromagnetic wave or, as Backster suspects, the very instant 
it was sent. Were the round-trip time for a telemetered message to be 
cut in half it would indicate that mental or emotional messages operate 
outside time as we conceive it, and beyond the electromagnetic spec¬ 

“We keep hearing about non-time-consuming communication from 
Eastern philosophic sources,” says Backster. “They tell us that the 
universe is in balance; if it happens to go out of balance someplace, you 


can't wait a hundred light-years for the imbalance to be detected and 
corrected. This non-time-consuming communication, this oneness 
among all living things, could be the answer.” 

Backster has no idea what kind of energy wave may carry man’s 
thoughts or internal feelings to a plant. He has tried to screen a plant 
by placing it in a Faraday cage as well as in a lead container. Neither 
shield appeared in any way to block or jam the communication channel 
linking the plant to the human being. The carrier-wave equivalent, 
whatever it might be, Backster concluded, must somehow operate 
beyond the electromagnetic spectrum. It also appeared to operate from 

the macrocosm down to the microcosm. 

One day when Backster happened to cut his finger and dabbed it with 
iodine, the plant that was being monitored on the polygraph immedi¬ 
ately reacted, apparently to the death of some cells in Backster’s finger. 
Though it might have been reacting to his emotional state at the sight 
of his own blood, or to the stinging of the iodine, Backster soon found 
a recognizable pattern in the graph whenever a plant was witnessing the 
death of some living tissue. 

Could the plant, Backster wondered, be sensitive on a cellular level 
all the way down to the death of individual cells in its environment? 

On another occasion the typical graph appeared as Backster was 
preparing to eat a cup of yogurt. This puzzled him till he realized there 
was a chemical preservative in the jam he was mixing into the yogurt 
that was terminating some of the live yogurt bacilli. Another inexplica¬ 
ble pattern on the chart was finally explained when it was realized the 
plants were reacting to hot water being poured down the drain, which 
was killing bacteria in the sink. 

Backster’s medical consultant, the New Jersey cytologist Dr. Howard 
Miller, concluded that some sort of “cellular consciousness” must be 
common to all life. 

To explore this hypothesis Backster found a way of attaching elec¬ 
trodes to infusions of all sorts of single cells, such as amoeba, 
paramecium, yeast, mold cultures, scrapings from the human mouth, 
blood, and even sperm. All were subject to being monitored on the 
polygraph with charts just as interesting as those produced by the plants. 

Plants and ESP 11 

Sperm cells turned out to be surprisingly canny in that they seemed to 
be capable of identifying and reacting to the presence of their own 
donor, ignoring the presence of other males. Such observations seem to 
imply that some sort of total memory may go down to the single cell, 

and by inference that the brain may be just a switching mechanism, not 
necessarily a memory storage organ. 

'‘Sentience/' says Backster, “does not seem to stop at the cellular 
level. It may go down to the molecular, the atomic and even the suba¬ 
tomic. All sorts of things which have been conventionally considered to 
be inanimate may have to be re-evaluated." 

Convinced of being on the track of a phenomenon of major impor¬ 
tance to science, Backster was anxious to publish his findings in a 
scientific journal so that other scientists could check his results. Scien¬ 
tific methodology requires that a recorded reaction be repeatable by 
other scientists at other locations, with an adequate number of repeti¬ 
tions. This made the problem more difficult than anticipated. 

To begin with, Backster found that plants can quickly become so 
attuned to human beings that it is not always possible to obtain exactly 
the same reactions with different experimenters. Incidents such as the 
fainting which occurred with the Canadian physiologist sometimes 
made it look as if there were no such thing as the Backster Effect. 
Personal involvement with an experiment, and even prior knowledge of 
the exact time an event was scheduled, was often enough to “tip off" 
a plant into noncooperation. This led Backster to the conclusion that 
animals subjected to excruciating vivisection may pick up the intent of 
their torturers and thus produce for them the very effects required in 
order to end the ordeal as rapidly as possible. Backster found that even 
if he and his colleagues discussed a project in their waiting room, the 
plants, three rooms away, could be affected by the imagery apparently 
generated by their conversation. 

To make his point, Backster realized, he would have to devise an 
experiment in which all human involvement was removed. The entire 
process would have to be automated. Altogether it took Backster two 
and a half years and several thousand dollars, some of it provided by the 
Parapsychology Foundation, Inc., then headed by the late Eileen Gar- 


rett, to devise the right experiment and perfect the fully automated 
equipment necessary to carry it out. Different scientists of varying disci¬ 
plines su gg ested an elaborate system of experimental controls. 

The test Backster finally chose was to kill live cells by an automatic 
mechanism at a random time when no humans were in or near the office, 
and see if the plants reacted. 

As sacrificial scapegoats Backster hit upon brine shrimp of the variety 
sold as food for tropical fish. It was important to the test that the victims 
demonstrate great vitality because it had been noted that tissue that is 
unhealthy or has begun to die no longer acts as a remote stimulus, is no 
longer capable of transmitting some type of warning. To see that brine 
shrimp are in good form is easy: in a normal condition, the males spend 
their whole time chasing and mounting females. 

The device for “terminating” these playboy creatures consisted of a 
small dish which would automatically tip them into a pot of boiling 
water. A mechanical programmer actuated the device on a randomly 
selected occasion so that it was impossible for Backster or his assistants 
to know when the event would occur. As a control precaution against 
the actual mechanism of dumping registering on the charts, dishes were 
programmed at other times to dump plain water containing no brine 

Three plants would be attached to three separate galvanometers in 
three separate rooms. A fourth galvanometer was to be attached to a 
fixed-value resistor to indicate possible random variations caused by 
fluctuations in the power supply, or by electromagnetic disturbances 
occurring near or within the experiment’s environment. Light and tem¬ 
perature would be kept uniform on all plants, which, as an extra precau¬ 
tion, would be brought from an outside source, passed through staging 
areas, and hardly handled before the experiment. 

Plants selected for the experiment were of the Philodendron cordatum 
species because of its nice large leaves, firm enough to withstand com¬ 
fortably the pressure of electrodes. Different plants of the same species 
would be used on successive test runs. 

The scientific hypothesis which Backster wished to pursue was, prop- 
er v phrased in the vernacular of science, that “there exists an as yet 

Plants and ESP IS 

undefined primary perception in plant life , that animat life termination 
can serve as a remotely located stimulus to demonstrate this perception 
capability , and that this perception facility in plants can be shown to 
function independently of human involvement ’’ 

The experimental results showed that the plants did react strongly 
and synchronously to the death of the shrimp in boiling water. The 
automated monitoring system, checked by visiting scientists, showed 
that plants reacted consistently to the death of the shrimp in a ratio that 
was five to one against the possibility of chance. 

The whole procedure of the experiment and its results were written 
up in a scientific paper published in the winter of 1968 in Volume X 
of The International Journal of Parapsychology under the title “Evi¬ 
dence of Primary Perception in Plant Life," It was now up to other 
scientists to see if they could repeat Backster’s experiment and obtain 
the same results. 

More than seven thousand scientists asked for reprints of the report 
on Backster’s original research. Students and scientists at some two 
dozen American universities indicated they intended to attempt to 
duplicate Backster’s experiments as soon as they could obtain the neces¬ 
sary equipment.* Foundations expressed interest in funding further 
experiments. The news media, which at first ignored Backster’s paper, 
went into a flurry of excitement over the story once National Wildlife 
had the courage to take the plunge in February of 1969 with a feature 
article. This attracted such worldwide attention that secretaries and 
housewives began talking to their plants, and Dracaena massangeana 
became a household word. 

Readers seemed to be most intrigued by the thought that an oak tree 
could actually quake at the approach of an axman, or that a carrot could 
shiver at the sight of rabbits, while the editors of National Wildlife were 
concerned that some of the applications of Backster’s phenomenon to 
medical diagnosis, criminal investigation, and such fields as espionage 
were so fantastic that they dared not as yet repeat them in print. 

Medical World News of March 21, 1969, commented that at last 

Backster has been loath to give out the names and places of these establishments so 
as not to have them importuned by outsiders until they have accomplished their tests and 
can make pondered announcements of their results at times of their own choosing. 


ESP research might be “on the verge of achieving the scientific respecta¬ 
bility that investigators of psychic phenomena have sought in vain since 
1882 when the British Society for Psychical Research was founded in 


William M. Bondurant, an executive of the Mary Reynolds Babcock 
Foundation in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, produced a grant of 
$10,000 for Backster to pursue his research, commenting: “His work 
indicates there may be a primary form of instantaneous communication 
among all living things that transcends the physical laws we know now 
_and that seems to warrant looking into.’’ 

Backster was thus able to invest in more expensive equipment, includ¬ 
ing electrocardiographs and electroencephalographs. These instruments, 
normally used for measuring electrical emissions from heart and brain, 
had the advantage of not putting current through the plants, merely 
recording the difference in potential they discharged. The cardiograph 
enabled Backster to obtain readings more sensitive than the polygraph; 
the encephalograph gave him readings ten times more sensitive than the 

A fortuitous occurrence led Backster into another whole realm of 
research. One evening, as he was about to feed a raw egg to his Dober¬ 
man pinscher, Backster noticed that as he cracked the egg one of his 
plants attached to a polygraph reacted strenuously. The next evening he 
watched again as the same thing happened. Curious to see what the egg 
might be feeling, Backster attached it to a galvanometer, and was once 
more up to his ears in research. 

For nine hours Backster got an active chart recording from the egg, 
corresponding to the rhythm of the heartbeats of the chicken embryo, 
the frequency being between 160 and 170 beats per minute, appropriate 
to an embryo three or four days along in incubation. Only the egg was 
store-bought, acquired at the local delicatessen, and was unfertilized. 
Later, breaking the egg and dissecting it, Backster was astonished to find 
that it contained no physical circulatory structure of any sort to account 
for the pulsation. He appeared to have tapped into some sort of force 
field not conventionally understood within the present body of scientific 


The only hint as to what sort of world he had wandered into came 

Plants and ESP IS 

to Backster from the amazing experiments in the energy fields around 
plants, trees, humans, and even cells, carried out at the Yale Medical 
School in the 1930s and 1940s by the late Professor Harold Saxton Burr, 
which are only just beginning to be recognized and understood. 

With these considerations Backster temporarily abandoned his ex¬ 
periments with plants to explore the implications of his egg discoveries, 
which appeared to have profound implications for the origin-of-life 
research—and are the makings of another whole book. 



Plants Can 

While Backster was developing his experiments in the eastern United 
States, a heavy-set research chemist working with International Business 
Machines in Los Gatos, California, was challenged to give a course in 
creativity” for IBM engineers and scientists. It was only after Marcel 
vogel had taken on the job that he realized the enormity of it. “How 
does one define creativity?” he found himself asking. “What is a creative 
Person? To answer these questions, Vogel, who had studied for years 
to become a Franciscan priest, began writing an outline for twelve 
two-hour seminars which he hoped would represent an ultimate chal- 
en §e to his students. 


Vogel’s own probings into the realm of creativity had started when 
he was a boy, curious to know what caused the light in fireflies and 
glowworms. Finding little on luminescence in the libraries, Vogel in- 
formed his mother that he would write a book on the subject. Ten years 
later Luminescence in Liquids and Solids and Their Practical Applica¬ 
tion was published by Vogel in collaboration with Chicago University’s 
Dr. Peter Pringsheim. Two years after that, Vogel incorporated his own 
company, called Vogel Luminescence, in San Francisco, which became 
a leader in the field. Over a period of fifteen years Vogel's firm developed 
a variety of new products: the red color seen on television screens; 
fluorescent crayons; tags for insecticides; a “black light” inspection kit 
to determine, from their urine, the secret trackways of rodents in cellars, 
sewers, and slums; and the psychedelic colors popular in “new age" 

By the mid-1950s Vogel became bored with his day-to-day tasks of 
administering a company and sold it to go to work for IBM. There he 
was able to devote his full time to research, delving into magnetics, 
optic-electrical devices, and liquid crystal systems, developing and pat¬ 
enting inventions of crucial significance to the storage of information in 
computers, and winning awards which adorn the walls of his San Jose 

The turning point in the creativity course which Vogel was asked to 
give at IBM came when one of his students gave him an Argosy maga¬ 
zine with an article on Backster’s work entitled “Do Plants Have Emo¬ 
tions?” Vogel’s first reaction was to throw the article into the wastebas¬ 
ket, convinced that Backster was just another charlatan unworthy ol 
serious consideration. Yet something about the idea gnawed at his mind 
A few days later, Vogel retrieved the article, and completely reversed hi! 

The article, read aloud to his seminar students, aroused both derisiot 


and curiosity. Out of this ruckus came the unanimous decision to expert 
ment with plants. That same evening, one student called Vogel # 
announce that the latest issue of Popular Electronics referred to Back 
ster’s work, and included a wiring diagram for an instrument called* 
“psychanalyser,” which would pick up and amplify reactions from plant 
and could be built for less than twenty-five dollars. 


Vogel divided his class into three groups and challenged them to 
repeat some of Backster’s accomplishments. By the end of the seminar, 
not one of the three teams had achieved any success. Vogel, on the other 
hand, was able to report that he had duplicated certain of Backster’s 
results, and proceeded to demonstrate how plants anticipate the act of 
having their leaves torn, react with even greater alarm to the threat of 
being burnt or uprooted—more so even than if they are actually torn, 
burnt, or otherwise brutalized. Vogel wondered why he alone seemed 
to be successful. As a boy, he had been interested in anything which 
might explain the workings of the human mind. After dipping into 
books on magic, spiritualism, and hypnotic technique, he had given 
stage demonstrations as a teen-age hypnotist. 

What particularly fascinated Vogel were Mesmer’s theory of a univer¬ 
sal fluid whose equilibrium or disturbance explained health or disease, 
Coup’s ideas of autosuggestion as they related to painless childbirth and 
self-betterment, and the postulates of various writers on “psychic en¬ 
ergy/' a term popularized by Carl Jung, who, though he differentiated 
it from physical energy, believed it to be incommensurable. 

Vogel reasoned that, if there was a “psychic energy/' it must, like 
other forms of energy, be storable. But in what? Staring at the many 
chemicals on the shelves of his IBM laboratory, Vogel wondered which 
of them could be used to store this energy. 

In his dilemma, he asked a spiritually gifted friend, Vivian Wiley, who 
went through the chemicals laid out for her and said that, in her 
judgment, none offered any promise of a solution for Vogel's problem. 
Vogel suggested she ignore his preconceived ideas about chemicals and 
use anything which might intuitively occur to her. Back in her garden, 
Vivian Wiley picked two leaves from a saxifrage, one of which she 
placed on her bedside table, the other in the living room. “Each day 
when I get up/’ she told Vogel, “I will look at the leaf by my bed and 

that it continue to live; but I will pay no attention to the other. We 
will see what happens.” 

A month later, she asked Vogel to come to her house and bring a 
camera to photograph the leaves. Vogel could hardly believe what he 
■aw. The leaf to which his friend had paid no attention was flaccid, 
bttning brown and beginning to decay. The leaf on which she had 

Plants Can Read Your Mind 19 

focused daily attention was radiantly vital and green, just as if it had been 
freshly plucked from the garden. Some power appeared to be defying 
natural law, keeping the leaf in a healthy state. Curious to see if he could 1 
get the same results as his friend, Vogel picked three leaves from an elm ; 

outside his IBM laboratory; at home he laid them on a plate of glass near 1 
his bed. j 

Each day, before breakfast, Vogel stared concentratedly at the two 
outer leaves on the glass for about one minute, exhorting them lovingly 1 
to continue to live; the center leaf he assiduously ignored. In a week, the 
center leaf had turned brown and shriveled. The outer leaves were still ' 
green and heaithy-looking. Most interesting to Vogel, the severed stems 
of the live leaves appeared to have healed the wounds caused by being 
ripped from the tree. Vivian Wiley continued her experiments and later ! 
showed Vogel the saxifrage leaf which she had kept green and alive for 

two long months while the control leaf was completely dehydrated and 
brown. 1 

Vogel was convinced that he was witnessing the power of “psychic 
energy in action. If the power of the mind could keep a leaf green way 
past its time, Vogel wondered what its effect might be on liquid crystals, 
an intensive study of which he was pursuing for IBM. 

Trained in microscopy, Vogel had taken hundreds of color slides of , 
liquid crystal behavior magnified up to three hundred times; when . 
screened, they rival the works of a gifted abstract artist. While making , 
the slides, Vogel realized that, by “relaxing his mind," he could sense 
activity not visually revealed in the microscopic field. j 

“I began to pick up things at the microscope which eluded others, not < 
with ocular vision but with my mind’s eye. After becoming aware of ] 
them, says Vogel, “I was led by some form of higher sensory awareness < 
to adjust the lighting conditions to allow these phenomena to be opti- j 
cally recordable to the human eye or to a camera." | 

The conclusion at which Vogel arrived is that crystals are brought into i 
a solid, or physical, state of existence by pre-forms , or ghost images of i 
pure energy which anticipate the solids. Since plants could pick up j 
intentions from a human, that of burning them, for example, there was 
no doubt in Vogel’s mind that intent produced some kind of energy < 
field. ] 


11 By the fall of 1971, finding that his microscopic work was taking up 

S ^ 0 f his time, Vogel abandoned his research on plants. But when an 

article on this research quoting Dr. Gina Cerminara, psychologist and 
1 author of a popular book on the seer Edgar Cayce, appeared in the San 
1 Jose Mercury , and was wired by the Associated Press throughout the 
world, Vogel was besieged on the telephone for information, and was 
3 thus stimulated to continue. 

^ Vogel realized that before he could observe with precision the effects 
“ on plants of human thoughts and emotion he would have to improve 
his technique of affixing electrodes to the plant leaves in such a way as 
s to eliminate random electromagnetic frequencies, such as the hum of 
near-by vacuum cleaners, major sources of spurious data—or engineer's 
r “noise"—which could cause the pen recorder to drift on the chart, and 
r which obliged Backster to conduct most of his experiments between 
midnight and dawn. 

Vogel also found that some of the philodendrons he worked with 
responded faster, others more slowly, some very distinctly, others less 
distinctly, and that not only plants but their individual leaves had their 
own unique personality and individuality. Leaves with a large electrical 
resistance were especially difficult to work with; fleshy leaves with a high 
water content were the best. Plants appeared to go through phases of 
activity and inactivity, full of response at certain times of the day or days 
of the month, “sluggish" or “morose” at other times. 

To make sure that none of these recording effects was the result of 
faulty electroding, Vogel developed a mucilaginous substance composed 
of a solution of agar, with a thickener of karri gum, and salt. This paste 
he brushed onto the leaves before gently applying carefully polished 
one-by-one-and-a-half-inch stainless-steel electrodes. When the agar 
ielly hardened around the edges of the electronic pickups, it sealed their 
races into a moist interior, virtually eliminating all the variability in 
signal output caused by pressure on leaves when clamped between ordi- 
nar y electrodes. This system produced for Vogel a base line on the chart 
that was perfectly straight, without oscillations. 

Having eliminated random influences, Vogel began a new round of 
ex Penments in the spring of 1971 to see if he could establish the exact 
m oment when a philodendron entered into recordable communication 

Plants Can Read Your Mind 21 

with a human being. With a philodendron attached to a galvanomete, 

which produced a straight base line, Vogel stood before the plam 

completely relaxed, breathing deeply and almost touching it with out 

spread fingers. At the same time, he began to shower the plant with th t 

same kind of affectionate emotion he would flow to a friend. Each tim 

he did this, a series of ascending oscillations was described on the chart 1 

by the pen holder. At the same time Vogel could tangibly feel, on th, 1 

palms of his hands, an outpouring from the plant of some sort of energy ' 

After three to five minutes, further release of emotion on Vogel’s pan 1 

evoked no further action from the plant, which seemed to have “di$ ' 

charged all its energy” in response to his ministrations. To Vogel, thf 1 

interreaction between himself and the philodendron appeared to be or; ^ 

the same order as that evoked when lovers or close friends meet, tht * 

intensity of mutual response evoking a surge of energy until it is finally 

expended and must be recharged. Like lovers, both Vogel and the plant * 

appeared to remain suffused with joy and contentment. ^ 

In a botanical nursery, Vogel found that he could easily pick out a ? 

particularly sensitive plant by running his hands over a group until h< * 

felt a slight cooling sensation followed by what he describes as a series * 

of electrical pulses, indicating a powerful field. Increasing the distance J 

between himself and the plant, Vogel found, like Backster, that he could " 

get a similar reaction from it, first from outside the house, then from 

down the block, and even from his laboratory in Los Gatos, eight miles r 
away. * 

In another experiment, Vogel wired two plants to the same recording 
machine and snipped a leaf from the first plant. The second plan! „ 
responded to the hurt being inflicted on its neighbor, but only wher. 
Vogel was paying attention to it! If Vogel cut off a leaf while ignoring p 
the second plant, the response was lacking. It was as if Vogel and tht r( 
plant were lovers on a park bench, oblivious of passers-by until tht q] 
attention of one lover became distracted from the other. 

From his own experience, Vogel knew that masters of the art of Yoga, V 
and teachers of other forms of deep meditation such as Zen, are unaware w 
of disturbing influences around them when in meditative states. An m 
electroencephalograph picks up from them quite a different set of brais i n 



wave $ than when the same persons are alert to the everyday world 
around them. It became clearer to Vogel that a certain focused state of 
consciousness on his part seemed to become an integral and balancing 
part of the circuitry required to monitor his plants. A plant could be 
awakened from somnolence to sensitivity by his giving up his normally 
conscious state and focusing a seemingly extra-conscious part of his mind 
on the exact notion that the plant be happy and feel loved, that it be 
blessed with healthy growth. In this way, man and plant seemed to 
interact, and, as a unit, pick up sensations from events, or third parties, 
which became recordable through the plant. The process of sensitizing 
both himself and the plant, Vogel found, could take only a few minutes 
or up to a half hour. 

Asked to describe the process in detail, Vogel said that first he quiets 
the sensory responses of his body organs, then he becomes aware of an 
energetic relationship between the plant and himself. When a state of 

balance between the bioelectrical potential of both the plant and himself 
is achieved, the plant is no longer sensitive to noise, temperature, the 
normal electrical fields surrounding it, or other plants. It responds only 

to Vogel, who has effectively tuned himself to it—or perhaps simply 
' hypnotizes it. 

Vogel now felt confident enough to accept an invitation to make a 
P u ^ ic demonstration with a plant. On a local TV program in San 
Francisco, the plant, coupled to a pen recorder, gave a live illustration 
of varying states of Vogel’s mind, running from irritation at an inter- 
viewer's questions to quiet tracings established when Vogel was in har¬ 
monious intercommunication with the plant. For the producer of ABC's 
television program You Asked for It, Vogel also demonstrated the 
£ plant s response to his or another person's thoughts, including a sudden 
release of strong emotion on command, followed by the act of his 
quieting the plant to normal reactions to its environment. 

Invited to lecture to audiences who had heard of his experimentation, 
°gel said unequivocally: “It is fact: man can and does communicate 
i ^ Ptauts are living objects, sensitive, rooted in space. They 

ma y blind, deaf, and dumb in the human sense, but there is no doubt 
roy mind that they are extremely sensitive instruments for measuring 

Plants Can Read Your Mind 23 

man's emotions. They radiate energy forces that are beneficial to matt 
One can fed these forces! They feed into one's own force field, whi c ] 
in turn feeds back energy to the plant." The American Indians, say 
Vogel, were keenly aware of these faculties. When in need, they woul 
go into the woods. With their arms extended, they would place thei 
backs to a pine tree in order to replenish themselves with its power. 

When Vogel began to demonstrate plants’ sensitivity to “states o 
attention” different from the supposed awareness which most human 
like to call consciousness, he discovered that the reaction of skeptics o 
hostile observers could produce strange effects on him. By paying atten 
tion to negative attitudes emanating from an audience, Vogel found hi 
could isolate the individuals emitting them and counter their effect v/itl 
a deep breath, learned in Yoga instruction. He would then switch hi 
mind to another mental image just as if he were turning a dial to; 
different setting. 

“The feeling of hostility, of negativity, in an audience,” says Vogel 
“is one of the main barriers to effective communication. To counterad 
this force is one of the most difficult tasks in public demonstration ol 
these plant experiments. If one cannot do this, the plant and therefor 
the equipment will ‘go dead’ and there is no response until a positiv< 
"tie can be reestablished. 

“It seems,” he says, “that I act as a filtering system which limits th( 
response of a plant to the outside environment. I can turn it off or on 
so that people and plant become mutually responsive. By charging thf 
plant with some energy within me, I can cause the plant to build up i 
sensitivity for this kind of work. It is extremely important that on< 
understand that the plant’s response is, in my opinion, not that of ar 
intelligence in plant form, but that the plant becomes an extension o 
oneself. One can then interact with the bioelectric field of the plant, fl 
through it, with the thought processes and emotions in a third person.’ 

Vogel concluded that a Life Force, or Cosmic Energy, surroundinj 
all living things is sharable among plants, animals, and humans. Througl 
such sharing, a person and a plant become one, “This oneness is wW 
makes possible a mutual sensitivity allowing plant and man not only t( 
intercommunicate, but to record these communications via the plant of 
a recording chart.” 


t Because his observations indicated there was an interchange, even a 
commingling or fusion of energies when plant and man commune, 
! y 0 g C i w ondered whether an exceptionally sensitive individual could get 
i . 0 a plant, as was reported of the sixteenth-century German mystic 
i igfcob Boehme, who, as a young man, became illumined and described 
being able to see in another dimension. 

1 Boehme said he could look at a growing plant and suddenly, by willing 
1 to do so, mingle with that plant, be part of the plant, feel its life 
1 “struggling toward the light.” He said he was able to share the simple 
1 ambitions of the plant and “rejoice with a joyously growing leaf.” 

1 One day Vogel was visited in San Jose by Debbie Sapp, a quiet, 

■ self-effacing girl who impressed Vogel with her initial ability to enter 
; into instant rapport with his philodendron, as established by his in¬ 

When the plant was entirely calm, he asked her, point blank: “Can 
you get into that plant?” Debbie nodded assent, and her face took on 
an attitude of quiet repose, of detachment, as if she were far away in 
another universe. Immediately the recording pen began to trace a pat¬ 
tern of undulations revealing to Vogel that the plant was receiving an 
unusual amount of energy. 

Debbie later described what happened in writing: 

Mr. Vogel asked me to relax and project myself into the philodendron. 
Several things took place as I began to carry out his request. 

First, I wondered exactly how I could get inside a plant. I made a 
conscious decision to let my imagination take over and found myself 
entering the main stem through a doorway at its base. Once inside, I saw 
the moving cells and water traveling upward through the stem, and let 
myself move with this upward flow. 

Approaching the spreading leaves in my imagination, I could feel 
myself being drawn from an imaginary world into a realm over which I 
had no control. There were no mental pictures, but rather a feeling that 
I was becoming part of, and filling out, a broad expansive surface. This 
seemed to me to be describable only as pure consciousness. 

I felt acceptance and positive protection by the plant. There was no 
sense of time, just a feeling of unity in existence and in space. I smiled 
spontaneously and let myself be one with the plant. 

Then Mr. Vogel asked me to relax. When he said this, I realized 1 was 
very tired but peaceful. All of my energy had been with the plant, 

Plants Can Read Your Mind 25 

Vogel, who was observing the recording on the chart, noticed an 
abrupt stop when the girl “came out” of the plant. On later occasions, 
when the girl “re-entered” the plant, she was able to describe the inner 
makeup of its cells and their structure in detail. She specifically noted 
that one of the leaves had been badly burned by an electrode. When 
Vogel detached the electrode, he found a hole almost all the way 
through the leaf. 

Vogel has since tried the same experiment with dozens of other 
people, having them go into a single leaf and look at the individual cells 
within it. All gave consistent descriptions of various parts of the cellular 
body down to the detailed organization of the DNA molecules. From 
the experiment, Vogel came to the conclusion: “We can move into 
individual cells in our own bodies and, depending on our state of mind, 
affect them in various ways. One day, this may explain the cause of 

The ability to go into a plant and analyze what part of it is hurt was 
demonstrated on TV film on Good Friday, 1973, when Vogel and Dr. 
Tom Montelbono, who had been working with him for over a year, were 
filmed during plant experimentation by a TV production team from 
CBS. It was highly embarrassing to both researchers that the plant 
seemed not to respond. Vogel asked Montelbono to see if there was 
something wrong with the electroding. Instead of tampering with the 
electrodes, Montelbono, to the astonishment of the CBS technicians, 
sat where he was and after a moment's concentration announced that 
damaged cells in the upper right-hand corner of the electroded part of 
the leaf were shorting the electrical circuit. In the presence of the TV 
men the electrodes were removed and the leaf was found to be damaged 
exactly where Montelbono had said. 

Because Vogel knows that, among all humans, children are the most 
“open-minded,” he has begun to teach children how to interact with 
plants. First, he asks them to feel a leaf, describe its temperature, 
consistency, and texture in detail. Next, he lets them bend leaves and 
become aware of their resilience before going on to pet the leaves gently 
by stroking their upper and under sides. If his pupils take pleasure if 
describing to him the sensations they feel, Vogel asks them to take their 


hands away from the leaves and try to feel a force or energy emanating 
from them. Many of the children instantly described a rippling or 
tingling sensation. 

Vogel noticed that those children who felt the strongest sensations 
were wholly engrossed in what they were doing. Once they felt the 
tjngling, he would say: “Now completely relax and feel the give-and-take 
of the energy. When you feel it pulsing, gently move your hand up and 
down over the leaf ” Following his directions, the young experimenters 
could easily see that, when they brought their hands down, the leaves 
fell away. By continued repetition of this motion, the leaves would begin 
to oscillate. With the use of both hands, the experimenters could actu¬ 
ally get a plant to sway. As they gained confidence, Vogel urged them 
to move further and further away from the plant. 

“This is basic training,” says Vogel, “to develop an expanded aware- 
mess of a force which is not visible. The awareness established, they see 
they can operate with this force.” 

Adults, according to Vogel, are much less successful than children, 
which leads him to surmise that many scientists are not going to be able 
to repeat his or Backster’s experiments in laboratories. “If they approach 
the experimentation in a mechanistic way,” says Vogel, “and don’t enter 
into mutual communication with their plants and treat them as friends, 
they will fail. It is essential to have an open mind that eliminates all 
preconceptions before beginning experiments.” Indeed, Vogel was told 
by one doctor working at the California Psychical Society that he had 
had not a single result, though he had worked for months. The same is 
true for one of Denver’s most renowned psychoanalysts. 

“Hundreds of laboratory workers around the world,” says Vogel, “are 
going to be just as frustrated and disappointed as these men until they 
appreciate that the empathy between plant and human is the key, and 
learn how to establish it. No amount of checking in laboratories is going 
m prove a thing until the experiments are done by properly trained 
observers. Spiritual development is indispensable. But this runs counter 
to the philosophy of many scientists, who do not realize that creative 
^Perimentation means that the experimenters must become part of their 

experiments. ” 

Plants Can Read Your Mind 27 

This highlights the difference in approach between Vogel and 
Backster, indicating, perhaps, that Vogel is establishing a type of hyp. 
notic control over his plants, whereas Backster says that his plants, left 
strictly alone, will quite normally react to their environment. 

Vogel says that even when a person can affect a plant, the result i$ 
not always a happy one. He asked one of his friends, a clinical psycholo 
gist, who had come to see for himself if there was any truth to the plant 
research, to project a strong emotion to a philodendron fifteen feet away. 
The plant surged into an instantaneous and intense reaction and then, 
suddenly, “went dead.” When Vogel asked the psychologist what had 
gone through his mind, the man answered that he had mentally com¬ 
pared Vogel’s plant with his own philodendron at home, and thought 
how inferior Vogel’s was to his. The “feelings” of Vogel’s plant were 
evidently so badly hurt that it refused to respond for the rest of the day; 
in fact, it sulked for almost two weeks. Vogel could not doubt that plants 
have a definite aversion to certain humans, or, more exactly, to what 
those humans are thinking. 

This being true, Vogel considered it possible, one day, to read a 
person’s thoughts through a plant. Something of the sort had already 
taken place. Vogel had asked a nuclear physicist to mentally “work” on 
a technical problem. As the man was cogitating, Vogel’s plant registered 
a series of tracings on the recorder for 118 seconds, When the tracing 
fell back to base line, Vogel informed his scientist friend that he had 
stopped his train of thought. The friend corroborated. 

Vogel wondered if he had actually captured a process on a chart via 
a plant. After a few minutes, he asked the physicist to think of his wife. 
When the physicist did so, the plant again recorded a tracing, this time 
for 105 seconds. It seemed to Vogel that, right before him in his living 
room, a plant was picking up and passing on a man’s mental impressions 
of his wife. If one could interpret such tracings, could one not know 
what the man was thinking? 

After a break for a cup of coffee, Vogel almost casually asked his friend 
to think once more of his wife in the same way he had thought of her 
before. The plant registered another 105-second-long tracing very simi¬ 
lar to the first. To Vogel this was the first time a plant seemed to have 
recorded a similar thought spectrogram and duplicated it. 


“By pursuing such experiments,” says Vogel, “we may have a means 
r technically identifying energies coming from the human mind, trans¬ 
lating them, and feeding them back into an as yet undeveloped device. 
A whole evening of thinking may be made explicit.” 

Entertaining a group of skeptical psychologists, medical doctors, and 
computer programmers at his house, Vogel let them look over his equip¬ 
ment for hidden devices and gimmicks which they insisted must exist, 
then asked them to sit in a circle and talk so as to see what reactions 
the plant might pick up. For an hour the group conversed on several 
topics with hardly a response from the plant. Just as they had all con¬ 
cluded that the whole thing was a fake, one of them said: “How about 
sex?” To their mutual surprise, the plant came to life, the pen recorder 
oscillating wildly on the chart. This led to speculation that talking of sex 
could stir up in the atmosphere some sort of sexual energy such as the 
“orgone” discovered and described by Dr. Wilhelm Reich, and that the 
ancient fertility rites in which humans had sexual intercourse in freshly 
seeded fields might indeed have stimulated plants to grow. 

The plant also responded to spooky stories told in a darkened room 
lit only by a red-shaded candle. At certain points in a story, such as: “The 

door of the mysterious cabin in the forest began slowly to open,” or, 
“Suddenly there appeared around the corner a strange man with a knife 
in his hand,” or “Charles bent down and raised the lid of the coffin,” 
the plant seemed to pay closer attention. To Vogel, this was evidence 
that a plant can measure “figments of the imagination,” being converted 
to energy by the group as a whole. 

Dr. Hal Puthoff, a physicist at the Stanford Research Institute in Palo 
Alto, invited Vogel and five other scientists to witness the effects he was 
getting by hooking up a chicken egg to the electro-psychometer, or 
E-meter,” developed by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. 
The E-meter’s function is almost identical to that of the psychoanalyzer 
which Vogel had first used with his seminar students. Puthoff attempted 
to demonstrate that the egg wired to the E-meter would respond when 
another egg was broken. He broke three separate eggs, but nothing 
happened. After asking Puthoff if he could try, Vogel put his hand over 
an egg and related to it exactly as he had learned to relate to his plants. 
In one minute, the needle on the E-meter’s galvanometer dial began to 

Plants Car Read Your Mind 29 

move and finally “pinned." Vogel backed ten feet away and got gyra¬ 
tions from the needle by opening and closing his hands. Though Puthoff 
and several others present tried to do the same, all failed. 

The needle’s movement, once thought to be affected by resistance on 
the skin of humans attached to electrodes, is known as Galvanic Skin 
Response, or GSR. Since plants have no skin, in the human sense, the 
term for the effect on plants has been changed to Psycho-Galvanic 

Response, or PGR 

“The PGR,” says Vogel, “exists not only in plants, but in all living 
forms. The directive action of the mind focuses this energy and, on 
command, releases the force in a series of pulses which can pass through 

glass, metals, and other materials. No one yet knows exactly what they 



In Russia, a psychic called Nina Kulagina can turn the needle of a 
compass without touching it but she has to do it with her hands near 
the compass; more impressive feats have been demonstrated at Stanford 
University, especially by the remarkably sensitive Ingo Swann, who 
attributes his success to techniques he learned in Scientology. With 
nothing but his will power, Swann has been able to affect a mechanism 
in the university’s most thoroughly shielded quark chamber, buried 
' deep underground in a vault of liquid helium, impenetrable to any 
known wave length of the electromagnetic spectrum, astonishing the 
academic physicists who watched him perform what they considered to 

be an impossible feat. 

Vogel stresses that experiments with plants can be extremely danger¬ 
ous to those who do not have the ability properly to alter their states of 
consciousness. “Focused thought, says Vogel, can exert a tremendous 
effect on the body of a person in a higher mental state, if he lets his 

emotions interfere,” 

No one, says Vogel, who is not in sound bodily health should become 
involved with plants or any other kind of psychic research. Though he 
has not been able to prove it, Vogel feels that a special diet of vegetables, 
fruits, and nuts, rich in minerals and proteins, allows the body to build 
the kind of energy necessary for such work. “One draws energy at higl 1 
levels,” he said, “and this requires good nutrition.” 


Asked how the higher energies, such as thought, might operate on the 
physical bodies of living organisms, Vogel says he has now begun to 
speculate on the strange properties of water. As a crystallographer, he 
is interested in the fact that, unlike most salts, which have one crystalline 
form, core samples of glacier ice have more than thirty different forms. 
“Uninitiated persons, when first looking at them,” says Vogel, “could 
conclude that they were observing as many different substances. And 
they would be right in their own way because water is a real mystery.” 

Vogel makes the prediction, which he stresses is as yet far from 
established fact, that since living things all have a high water content, 
the vitality of a person must be in some way related to the rate of 
respiration. As water moves around the body and through its pores, 
charges are built. Vogel's first clue about his postulate on water came 
from the fact that some “psychics” have lost several pounds of body 
weight during sessions in which they expended vital, or psychic, energy. 
“If we could weigh a person doing psychic research on a sensitive scale,” 
suggests Vogel, “we would find that there is a loss of weight in each case. 
It is a water loss, as it is in persons who go on crash diets.” 

Whatever the future brings, Vogel believes that his research with 
plants can help man to the recognition of long-ignored truths. By devel¬ 
oping simple training kits, which he is presently designing, he thinks he 
can teach children to release their emotions and watch the effects in a 
measurable way. 

"“They can thus learn the art of loving , ” says Vogel, “and know truly 
that when they think a thought they release a tremendous power or force 
in space. By knowing that they are their thoughts, they will know how 
to use thinking to achieve spiritual, emotional, and intellectual growth. 

This is no machine to measure brain waves or any gimmick to help 
People to become seers or mystics,” Vogel insists, “but one to help 
children to become simple , honest human beings. ” 

Asked to sum up the importance of his research with plants, Vogel 
replied: “So much of the ills and suffering in life comes from our 
inability to release stresses and forces within us. When a person rejects 
us > we rebel inside and we hold on to this rejection. This builds a stress 
w hich, as Dr. Wilhelm Reich showed so long ago, becomes locked in 

Plants Can Read Your Mind 31 

as muscular tension, and if not unlocked, depletes the body’s energy field 
and alters its chemistry. My research with plants indicates one pathway 

to deliverance.” 

For Marcel Vogel, plants have opened new horizons. The vegetal 
kingdom seems capable of picking up messages of intent, benign or 
malicious, that are inherently more truthful than when translated into 
words—a talent which all human beings may share but which they have 

momentarily occluded. 

Two young Californian students of humanistic psychology and Hindu 
philosophy, Randall Fontes and Robert Swanson, have now pursued 
Vogel’s quarry into unbeaten ground. Using sophisticated equipment 
lent them by the IBM researcher, they have made a senes of discoveries 
so surprising that despite their youth they have been granted funds and 
equipment by established universities to further probe the mysteries of 

plant communication. 

Fontes’ and Swanson’s first discovery came virtually by accident when 
one noticed that the other’s yawning was being picked up by a plant m 
the form of energy surges. Instead of ignoring the phenomenon as 
improbable, the two students followed up the clue remembering that m 
ancient Hindu texts an exaggerated yawn was considered a means by 
'which a tired person could be recharged with vivifying shakhti, a postu¬ 
lated energy filling the universe. 

With the help of Dr. Norman Goldstein, a professor of biology at 
State University in Hayward, California, Fontes went on to discover an 
electrical potential traveling from cell to cell in the ivy philodendron 
which gives a strong indication of the presence of a hitherto unsuspected 
simple nervous system. As a result, Fontes has been invited to direct a 
project at the Science Unlimited Research Foundation in San Antonio, 
Texas, on the effects of human consciousness on living organisms. Mean¬ 
while, Swanson is cooperating in the setting up of a parapsychologically 
oriented counseling center at the John F. Kennedy University in Mar¬ 
tinez, California, where one of Swanson’s goals is to determine just 
which people affect plants telepathically and which do not. 



Plants That Open Doors 

Next to probe the mysteries of plant communication was an “electronics 
specialist" from West Paterson, New Jersey, who happened to hear 
Baclcster interviewed on a radio program hosted by Long John Nebel. 
An assiduous investigator of ESP and of the phenomenon of remote 
hypnotism, Pierre Paul Sauvin was equally at home in the “state of the 
. and “feasibility considerations” of the engineer, mostly because of 
his training and employment for several large corporations, including 
Aerospace and International Telephone and Telegraph. 

Long John—a professional skeptic—roped Backster into a 
COrner to get him to describe some practical uses for his discovery of 


primary perception in plants, Backster first suggested the exotic notion 
that in |ungle warfare soldiers in dangerous territory could wire up the 
local plants to act as “stress alarm indicators” and avoid being am- 
bushed. “But if you really want to make a psychologist sit up and take 
notice,” Backster told Long John, “you could instrument a plant to 
activate a small electric train, getting it to move back and forth on no 
other command than that of human emotion. 

This notion, though singularly impractical, could be spelled out in 
Sauvin’s electronics jargon as an “anxiety response device,” and so fired 
him that he turned his bachelor quarters in a house overlooking the 
Passaic River into a Merlin’s cave of electronic equipment. 

Sauvin claims that many of his insights and ideas for inventions come 
to him in psychic flashes, as if he were merely acting as a medium. He 
says he sometimes gets the factual data necessary for an invention 
without fully understanding the principle, or how it relates to the whole, 
and must get further details by questions addressed to levels beyond. 

Using high-voltage generators which produce the sort of lightning 
arcs usually associated with Dr. Frankenstein, Sauvin can put 27,001] 
volts through his body and remotely activate a large doughnut bulb filled 
with helium to serve as an electronic ouija board, its dark rings flowing 
' in one direction or the other in answer to his questions. He also devel 
oped a system guaranteed to hypnotize anyone, even the most recalci 
trant, by placing the subject on an unstable platform in a pitch-blacl 
room and swaying before him a rainbow pattern of light that causes him 

to lose his balance. 

With such exotic expertise it was not long before Sauvin had a to; 
electric train running round a track and reversing its direction througl 
nothing but his thought and emotion relayed to a plant. He was abit 
not only successfully to demonstrate the phenomenon before an audi 
ence of sixty in Madison, New Jersey, but to make the train start afli 

stop at will under the klieg lights of a television studio. 

As the engine moved around the track it would activate a switd 
leading to Sauvin’s body in such a way as to give him a sharp elects 
shock. Just ahead on the track, another switch was wired to a galvanorn £ 
ter attached to an ordinary philodendron. As the philodendron picke 


up Sauvin's emotional reaction at being shocked, the galvanometer 
needle would jump and throw the switch, reversing the train. The next 
step was for Sauvin simply to remember the sensation of being shocked 
and project it in order for the plant to activate the switch. 

Though Sauvin had long been interested in parapsychology and was 
fascinated with the psychological implications of a plant responding to 
human thought and emotion, his main preoccupation was the develop¬ 
ment of a foolproof plant device that could be activated by any human 
being. For Sauvin’s purposes it did not matter whether the plant was in 
any way rational or feeling, so long as it could reliably pick up his 
emotional signal and trigger the switch. Whether plants were “con¬ 
scious'" or not, Sauvin was convinced they had an energy field similar 
to the energy field generated by a human being, and that somehow an 
interaction of these fields could be put to use. The problem was to 
develop equipment sensitive enough to take advantage of the phenome¬ 
non in an absolutely reliable way, 

Perusing the endless stream of trade journals that passed across his 
desk as a technical writer for ITT, Sauvin was struck by a series of articles 
in Popular Electronics, on unusual electronic circuits and exotic weap¬ 
onry, by a mysterious writer named L. George Lawrence. The author, 
intrigued by the Russian development of animal guidance systems for 
training cats to pilot nonjammable air-to-air missiles right onto target, 
speculated in his articles on training plants to respond to the presence 
of selected objects and images, evidently for a similar purpose. Rumored 
to be a high government official involved in security research writing 
under a pseudonym, Lawrence is in fact a European-born engineer, 
formerly a professor of audio-visual arts at San Bernardino College in 

California, presently the director of his own independent research insti¬ 

unfortunately, the components for sophisticated circuits such as 

°se devised by Lawrence—though worth mere pennies, in terms of 
materials—would cost thousands of dollars of engineering man-hours to 
Produce, and were in any case not available on the market. But from one 
0 Sauvin's jobs as a specifications engineer on a large government 
extract he had salvaged what might be just the right pieces—some 


Plants That Open Doors 35 

phase-looplocked discriminators pressed into microelectronic silicon w* ( 
fers that had been junked by the lab as unfit for the temperate ; 

requirements of space. , 

With these “chips” Sauvin was able to build a Wheatstone bridge fot , 

measuring electrical potential with alternating instead of direct current^ ( 
and an automatic gain control circuit by means of which he hoped tt ( 
be able to distinguish very fine changes in the energy fields of plants < 
The sensitivity achieved was one hundred times greater than could h , 
obtained with Backster’s galvanometer and eliminated enormou ; 

amounts of electronic “noise.” 1 

What Sauvin was now measuring was no longer voltage amplitude bul | 
phase shift, or the fine lag between two running voltages. The result gavt 
Sauvin an instrument roughly comparable to an ordinary light-dimmei < 
switch, in which a plant leaf acted as the switch. Variations of appared 1 
resistance in the leaf would cause a light to get brighter or dim me i 
depending on the response of the plant to outside effects. 1 

As soon as his device was functioning, Sauvin set about monitorin[ i 
plants around the clock. To catch the tiniest nuances of phase shif 
Sauvin hooked his plants to an oscilloscope, a big electronic green eyi 1 
with a figure eight of light whose loops changed shape as the curren i 
from a plant varied, making patterns much like the fluttering of thi i 
wings of a butterfly. Simultaneously, a varying tone was produced b; i 
current run through an amplified tone oscillator which enabled Sauvir ] 
to hear minute changes in vibrations, and know how his plants wen 
reacting. A bank of tape recorders kept a permanent record of thi 
oscillating tone, along with a monotonous beep every second from i 1 
WWV international time-signal broadcast. With a stopwatch Sauvii 1 
could run a check on the effect he was having on his plants from i‘ 
distance, whether down the street, at ITT, or off on a holiday. 

Some of Sauvin’s Merlin equipment now came into its own, especial! 
a complex system of automatic phone-answering and recording device! 
For some years Sauvin had been carrying on a moonlighting operation 
writing for various specialized magazines, under various pseudonym 
while retaining his regular job. To keep his cover and not arouse tfo 
displeasure of his masters at ITT and yet be able to consult with hi 
editors and answer their queries any time during the day, Sauvin 


jgvised an ingenious system. By means of a small radio transmitter 
tapped to his leg and a battery of automated and preprogrammed tape 

chines at home he could communicate via his home phone, receiving 
messages and giving answers, all from his desk at ITT. For various 
editors to identify themselves to Sauvin’s automatic equipment he devel¬ 
oped such simple tricks as having an editor run his finger along a pocket 
comb close to the phone mouthpiece, generating an easily identifiable 
sound wave which would trigger from the automatic equipment the 
appropriate reply. As a cover for his own low-toned conversations from 
his desk, Sauvin developed the habit of humming to himself most of the 
time he was at work, soon becoming known as the “hummer" of ITT. 

This Rube Goldberg equipment served Sauvin admirably for remote- 
controlled communication with his plants. He could call his own num¬ 
ber and speak to his plants directly; he could monitor the tones of their 
response via the amplified audio-oscillator, and from wherever he might 
be he could control the light, color, temperature, or recording equip¬ 
ment in his quarters. 

When electroding his plants Sauvin gradually realized that like Vogel 
he could obtain the best results from plants with which he established 
a special mental rapport. This he would accomplish by putting himself 
into a light trance, wishing the plant well, tenderly touching or washing 
its leaves, till he could feel his own energy emanations entering and 
interplaying with those of the plant. 

Like Backster, Sauvin found that his plants reacted most strongly to 
the death of living cells in their environment, and most consistently to 
the death of human cells. He also found in the course of his various 
experiments that the simplest signal he could transmit to his plants, 
cxtrasensorily, to which they would respond with a sharp enough reac¬ 
tion, was to give himself a light electric shock, the very simplest method 
being to swivel his desk chair and then ground the accumulated static 
charge by touching his finger to his metal desk. His plants several miles 
away would react with an instant surge. Just as with the train experi- 
luent, Sauvin eventually found that he merely needed to remember or 
re *feel a shock for his plants to pick up the signal, even from as far away 
as his holiday cottage eighty miles north of his West Paterson lab. 

As Sauvin’s main problem remained that of getting his plants to be 

Plants That Open Doors 37 


sharply attuned to his person rather than to their immediate envirot 
ment, when he was away for several days, he had to devise some meat 
of attracting his plants’ attention even more effectively than addressin 
them over the long-distance phone. As his plants reacted most strong) 
to any damage done to himself or to any part of his own energy fie) ( 
he experimented with remotely killing a few cells of his body in t\ 
presence of the plants. The system worked admirably. The problem ws 
to obtain cells that would remain alive for protracted periods. Bloo 
worked well enough, hair was difficult to kill, but sperm worked best c 
all, because, as Sauvin explained, it was easier to obtain than bleeding 
and much less painful. 

These experiments led Sauvin to wonder if plants might not react ju 
as well to emotions of pleasure and joy as to pain and shock. Not onl 
was he tired of shocking himself, he was afraid that repeated shocks I 
his plants, even indirect ones, might be unpleasantly loading his karm 

Sauvin soon found that his plants did react to joy and pleasure, but wit 1 
wave patterns that were not sharp enough to trigger a switch reliahl 
Undaunted, Sauvin decided on a more daring experiment. During £ 
holiday with a girl friend at his lakeside cottage he established that 1 


plants, eighty miles away, would react with very high peaks on the ton 
oscillator to the acute pleasure of sexual climax, going right off the to 
at the moment of orgasm. All of which was very interesting and coul ^ 
be turned into a commercially marketable device for jealous wives t 

monitor their philandering husbands, by means of a potted begonia. Bi 
it was not yet conducive to a simple, foolproof system of getting a plai 
to trigger a switch consistently. 

There was no question in Sauvin’s mind that he could affect a plai 
at a distance; but he could not rely on the system for any really sensito 
fail-safe purpose because his plant might at any time react to son 
stimulus in its own environment, such as the sudden appearance of a c 
or of a bird outside the window snapping up an insect. Sauvin thereto 
wired three plants, each set in a different room, and thus in a differet 

environment, to a single circuit which could only be activated if all thrf 

plants reacted synchronously. By keeping the plants in separate envirdo 
ments Sauvin hoped the required stimulus would be synchronous on 


ro t when it came from him, wherever he might be. This was still not 
ia 5 positively foolproof, because at times one plant or the other might not 
sii, fully react to the stimulus, but it was a step forward in that it prevented 
id any random stimulus from affecting all three plants at once. 
e [. Sauvin was now anxious to release his data confirming Backs ter’s 
{I fin dings and to make public his own contribution to a science which he 
% felt had a potential for the world no less great than Marconi's use of 
oq radio waves. But in a country where government and industrial execu- 
t tives are less interested in the quaint notion of communing with nature 
than in developing sophisticated weapons of offense and the gadgetry 
of mind surveillance, Sauvin had a hard time finding either a sponsor 
■, or an audience. 

)nl Unable to interest the mass media, or such conservative journals as 
s ( Science or Scientific American , Sauvin decided to angle his material to 
m the engineering and mechanical journals to which he was already a 
regular contributor. To incite the interest of the editor of a car magazine 
w he concocted a story about a device that would enable him to start his 
g car by remote control by means of thought waves to a plant. With the 
t he *P a sma11 ra dio transmitter this proved to be a simple enough 
uii operation, the only technical difficulty being the designing of a gadget 
to that would give just the right pressure to the ignition key, repeat the 
, pressure if the engine failed to catch, and release pressure the moment 

, it did. 

Bi device was designed to appeal to a citizen with the prospect of 

ai e ‘ n ® a ^ e t0 wa ^ e U P on a frosty morning and get his car and heater 
started while still comfortably enjoying his breakfast. But for Sauvin 

a l “ ere was one defect: a plant was not really needed; the device could be 
■it operated directly by radio, To include his beloved plants in a worthwhile 
n a ttractive to automobile and home owners, Sauvin cooked up a 
^ system whereby a man returning on a snowy night could approach his 
o; garage and signal his pet philodendron to open the doors. Here the 
Ptant’s function of responding only to its master would make it admira- 

r( bl y burglar-proof, 

1 T 

°'Sa arOUSC the interest of serious scientists who might wish to provide 
n uvin with the necessary funds for a proper lab, Sauvin hit upon the 

Plants That Open Doors 39 


idea of showing that an airplane could be flown by thought control wi[j 
the aid of his plants attached to his sensitive devices. For years Sauvi* 
already a licensed pilot, had enjoyed the hobby of flying model planq 
some with a wing spread as large as six feet, controlling them entire! 
from the ground by radio signals, getting them to bank, loop, speed up 
stow down, and even land. By a slight adaptation to his transmit 
equipment Sauvin is able to start, stop, or affect the speed of a mod{ 
plane in flight by transmitting a thought to a plant. 

In the sensitivity of plants Sauvin also saw a means of detecting 
potential hijacker at an airport before such a criminal could board 
plane and endanger passengers. He therefore suggested "Operation Slo 
jack, 1 ' a system whereby plants could be used in conjunction with galv; 
nometers and other sensitive devices to pick up the turbulent emotion 
of a hijacker being screened by security, the problem at an airport bein 
to safeguard not only the lives of passengers but their rights as citizen 

not to be subjected to unwarranted search. 

Already the U.S, Army has taken an interest in the project. At Foi 
Belvoir, Virginia, funds have been provided for research on plants. Tt 
Army is interested in devising ways of measuring the emotional n 
sponses of people via plants, without having to sensitize the plants t 
a special person beforehand. 

The Navy is also showing interest. Eldon Byrd, an operations anaty 
with the Advanced Planning and Analysis Staff of the Naval Ordnam 
Laboratory in Silver Spring, Maryland, has been duplicating Backstei 
experiments with some success. A member of the American Society f 
Cybernetics and senior member of the Institute for Electrical and Ele 
tronic Engineers, Byrd attached the electrodes of a polygraph to tl 
leaves of a plant, and has been observing definite fluctuations of tl 
polygraph needle as the plant responds to various stimuli. Like Backstf 
Byrd found that by merely thinking of harming a plant’s leaf it im¬ 
possible to make the polygraph needle jump. Byrd’s experiments i 
volved monitoring a plant s reaction to stimuli from water, infrared 3J 
ultraviolet light, fire, physical stress, and dismemberment. 

Byrd believes the galvanometrical effect produced by a plant is si 
caused by electrical resistance in the leaf, but by a change of b 


potential in the cells from outside to the inside membrane, as defined 
by the Swedish Dr. L. Karlson, who has shown that a cluster of cells can 
change polarity, though the energy which causes cells to become polar¬ 
ized is n °t known. Byrd believes that a voltage change in the cells is what 
is being measured, and that it is the mechanism of consciousness which 
causes the change in potential. 

Byrd's research supports Backster’s observations that plants exhibit a 
quality of awareness and an empathy to other organisms that are stimu¬ 
lated in their presence. Like Backster, Byrd also found a major problem 
in his experiments to be the plants’ tendency to “faint” under excess 
stress, suddenly ceasing to respond even to the most basic stimuli, such 
as light and heat. Like Backster and Sauvin, Byrd was able to demon¬ 
strate on television a plant's reaction to various stimuli, including his 
intent to burn it. On camera Byrd got a plant to respond to his shaking 
a spider in a pill box. The plant responded with about a second's delay, 
the response continuing as long as a minute. He also got a strong 
reaction when cutting the leaf from another plant. 

Byrd, who has a master’s degree in medical engineering from George 
Washington University and is a member of Mensa, a worldwide organi¬ 
zation whose primary requirement is an extremely high intelligence 
quotient, has no ready solution to explain the apparent response of plants 
to human thoughts, and is open to widely disparate explanations, includ¬ 
ing alterations of the earth's magnetic field, supernatural and spiritual 
phenomena, and the mysterious mechanics of bioplasma. In a paper 

fi presented in 1972 to the American Society of Cybernetics, Byrd re¬ 
el viewed numerous Russian experiments with thought transmission via 
[ “bioplasma,” which certain Soviet scientists claim to be a previously 
1 undiscovered form of energy. 

:( m May, 1973, Byrd began to set up an experiment to instrument the 
?. bny leaves of Mimosa pudica , which are so sensitive that they collapse 
i when touched. Byrd believes that, by using a thin wire barely touching 
it a mimosa leaf, he can pick up through a special amplifier minute changes 
m voltage or resistance. Also available to Byrd is one of the world’s finest 
n recorders, made in West Germany by Siemens, which shoots out 
)i 111016 than three feet of recording paper per second with the patterns 

Plants That Open Doors 41 

I II: I II' 

i i.lili . 

!l li! ■ 

I 1 ll j 

I '■ 

i :ii. 

' mJ ,= ■ 

i i i : ii 


.I' /ilill 


j , 1 . :i : 

'r 1 .1 

! I ! ! ;l' ■' 

Mi: ll , 

I 1 ■ ' : 

1 1 1 ■ I 
I ' I- : : 

I ll I 
: i II 1 I J 11 

' I 
■' I 

recorded by a jet of ink only a few microns wide. With these device* 
Byrd hopes to be able to pick up plant reactions which have hitherto 

gone unnoticed. 

Byrd is also planning to work with a primitive marine alga, Acetabu. 
laria cremulata, which, though two inches long, is made up of only a 
single cell. If this monocellular plant exhibits the Backster Effect, 
Byrd will then surgically remove its nucleus. If it then fails to respond, 
Byrd hopes this will offer proof that the genetic material in the nuclei 
of plant cells is chiefly responsible for plant response. 

A revolutionary new lie-detector device known as a Psychological 
Stress Evaluator has also been made available to Byrd, along with lab 
space and facilities, by Allan Bell, inventor of the device, who is presi¬ 
dent of Dektor Counter Intelligence Systems, a firm he recently formed 
with two other ex-intelligence officers. The device, tested by monitoring 
twenty-five segments of the television program To Tell the Truth, is said 
to have picked the persons who were telling the truth with 94.7 percent 
accuracy. The theory behind the device is that the human voice nor¬ 
mally operates in both audible frequencies and inaudible frequency 
modulations, except when a person is under stress. According to the 
inventors of the device, when the inaudible FM vibrations disappear 
from the voice under stress, the ear does not note the difference, but 
the machine can trace the fluctuations on a chart. Byrd is now working 
on a means of adapting the device for employment in conjunction with 


In Japan a soft-spoken doctor of philosophy and successful electronics 
engineer from Kamakura, a charmingly gardened retreat not far from 
Yokohama harbor, has developed a similar lie detector into a device with 
the most fabulous results yet achieved in the plant kingdom. A regular 
consultant on lie detection for the Japanese police, Dr. Ken Hashimoto 
read about Backster s laboratory experiments and decided to wire one 
of the family cactuses to an ordinary polygraph by means of acupuncture 


His intent was more revolutionary than Backster s, Sauvin s or Byrd $. 
He hoped to enter into actual conversation with a plant; to do so he 
counted on an improvement he had made in the Japanese procedure foi 


lie detection. To simplify and make less expensive the process of police 
interrogation. Dr. Hashimoto developed a system, similar to Dektor’s, 
whereby nothing more than a cassette tape is needed to record the 
reactions of a suspect. Electronically transposing the modulations of the 
suspect’s voice, Hashimoto was able to produce on a paper a running 
graph reliable enough to pass muster in a Japanese law court. 

It now dawned on Hashimoto that by reversing the system he might 
be able to transform the tracings from a graph into modulated sounds, 
giving voice to a plant. His first experiments with a cactus similar to the 
giant saguaro of California and the Arizona desert, but much smaller, 
were a failure. Loath to conclude that either Backster’s reports or his 
own equipment was defective, Hashimoto decided that it might be he 
who was having trouble communicating with the plant, despite the fact 
that he is one of Japan’s leading researchers into psychic phenomena. 

His wife, on the other hand, who loves plants and is renowned for her 
“green thumb,” soon got sensational results. As Mrs. Hashimoto assured 
the plant that she loved it, there was an instant response from the cactus. 
Transformed and amplified by Dr. Hashimoto’s electronic equipment, 
the sound produced by the plant was like the high-pitched hum of 
very-high-voltage wires heard from a distance, except that it was more 
like a song, the rhythm and tone being varied and pleasant, at times even 
warm and almost jolly. 

John Francis Dougherty, a young American from Marina Del Rey, 
California, who witnessed one of these conversations, says it sounded as 
if Mrs. Hashimoto, speaking in modulated Japanese, was being answered 
by the plant in modulated “cactese.” Dougherty further reports that the 
Hashimotos became so intimate with their plant that they were soon 
able to teach it to count and add up to twenty. In answer to a query as 
to how much two and two make, the plant would respond with sounds 
which, when transcribed back into inked tracings, produced four distinct 
and conjoined peaks. 

Dr. Hashimoto, who got his doctorate from Tokyo University, and is 
chief of the Hashimoto Electronics Research Center, as well as manag- 
m § director and chief of research for the Fuji Electronic Industries— 
which produce the huge animated electrical signs that illumine Tokyo 

Plants That Open Doors 43 

i ! 1 j 
, I : 

■ l!i 

—has since demonstrated the adding capacities of his cactus to audi- 
ences all over Japan. 

Asked to explain the phenomenon of his talking and adding cactus, 
Dr. Hashimoto, who is also, surprisingly, one of Japan’s best-selling 
authors—his Introduction to ESP is in its sixtieth printing and his 


Mystery of the Fourth Dimensional World is in its eightieth—answered 
that there are many phenomena that cannot be explained by the theories 
of present-day physics. He believes there is a world beyond the present 
three-dimensional world defined by physics, that this three-dimensional 
world is merely a shadow of a fourth-dimensional, nonmaterial world. He 
further believes that this fourth-dimensional world controls the three- 
dimensional material world through what he calls “mind concentration” 
or what others call psychokinesis, or mind-over-matter. 

The possibilities of such mind control being used for either good or 
evil on this planet is the problem now facing these researchers. Since 
Sauvin’s ordination as a minister at the Psychic Science Temple of 
Metaphysics, he has become a strong pacifist, abhorrent of the use of 
thought-controlled weapons against animals and plants as well as hu¬ 
mans. Though he has taken out business certificates on such devices— 
which put him on record as the inventor—he is loath to disclose his most 
sensitive invention, code-named Device 13, for fear that it could quickly 
be developed by the Department of Defense into a foolproof thought- 
controlled guided missile. The temple’s spiritual leader, the Reverend R 
William Daut, is a trumpet medium, one who communicates with 
those who have departed by going into trance and having a trumpet 
levitate in a semidarkened room; through it the voices of the departed 
speak. Made of three pieces of aluminum in the shape of a cheerleader's 
megaphone, the trumpet has no electronic or other gimmicks. The 
voices simply seem to materialize out of thin air, at times recognizable 
as individuals known to the listeners and at others as guiding spirits; 
often included are such extraneous sound effects as the distant barking 
of dogs. 

Sauvin says the purpose of the exercise is to convey enlightenment 
to give profound and beautiful inspirational messages on wisdom, love 
and the continuity of life. True religion, says Dr. Daut, is universe 




intelligence. There is no death. There are no dead. Reformation is 
never denied us, here or hereafter." 

The trumpet system, says Sauvin, is no more unusual than that of the 
Oracle at Delphi or of the talking statues of the initiate priests of ancient 
Egypt; the doctrines, familiar since the erection of temples, include: the 
fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, immortality of the soul, 
communication between departed human spirits and living mortals, 
personal responsibility with compensation and retribution, a path of 
eternal progress open to every soul by the path of eternal good, nature’s 
laws, both spiritual and physical, and now communion with plants. 

If communication of nonverbal messages turns out, as the evidence 
hints, to transcend limitations of time and space, and to take place via 
some spectrum of energies which is unrelated to what humans call 
electromagnetic, the idea of a dialogue with unseen intelligences 
active in planes beyond that of man’s self-limitations, such as was prac¬ 
ticed by mystics of the caliber of Jakob Boehme, may no longer seem 

far-fetched. If we find the means to receive such messages we may 
reopen the doors to the cosmos. 

Plants That Open Doors 45 


Visitors from Space 

One day late in October of 1971, a blue Volkswagen “bug” carrying 
some unusual scientific equipment drove into Oak Grove Park near 
Temecula, a tiny southern California village near the Pechenga Indian 
Reservation, not far from the famous Mount Palomar Observatory. Out 
of the driver’s seat stepped a forty-seven-year-old Silesian-born electron¬ 
ics engineer—L. George Lawrence. With a field assistant he had come 
to this remote desertlike spot to record signals from wild-growing oak 
trees, cacti, and yuccas. Lawrence chose the park because, in his words, 
it is “an electromagnetic ‘deep-fringe’ area, with no man-made interfer¬ 
ences, and thus ideal for getting clean, uncontaminated plant reactions.’' 

Ah important difference between Lawrence’s apparatus for capturing 
plant signals and that of Backster, Vogel and Sauvin is that it incorpo¬ 
rates, in a temperature-controlled bath, living vegetal tissue shielded 
behind a Faraday tube that screens out even the slightest electromag¬ 
netic interference. Lawrence found that living vegetal tissue is able to 
perceive signals far more delicately than electronic sensors. It is his belief 
that biological radiations transmitted by living things are best received 
by a biological medium. 

Lawrence’s equipment also differs significantly from that of the other 
experimenters in that it dispenses with the need to use electrodes on 
plants if they are far enough away from their neighbors to rule out signal 
interference, as is usually the case in desert areas. Instead, Lawrence 
simply trains a lensless tube with a wide aperture—the optical axes of 
which parallel the design axis of the Faraday tube—at a target plant. At 
greater distances he substitutes a telescope for the lensless tube, and 
makes the plant more visible by hanging a white cloth on it, 

Lawrence’s living tissue can pick up a directional signal from distances 
up to one mile away. To stimulate his plant subjects into distinct reac¬ 
tions he “dumps a premeasured quantity of electricity into them,” 
activating the stimulus by remote control with a timer which allows him 
to walk or drive back to the sensing station. His exploratory experiments 
are made during colder seasons when most vegetation is dormant, so as 
to be doubly sure that spurious signals from other plants are not garbling 
his measurements. 

Perturbations in the living tissue of his recorder are detected, not 

visually through a penrecorder, but aurally by means of a continuous, low 

even whistle, similar to that produced by a sine-wave generator, which 

changes into a series of distinct pulses whenever it is disturbed by signals 
from a plant. 

On the day of their arrival at Oak Grove Park in 1971 Lawrence and 

his assistant took a break for a late-afternoon snack, seating themselves 

shout ten yards from their instrument, which was left pointing randomly 
at the sky. 

As Lawrence bit into a Hebrew National knockwurst, the steady 
w histling sound from his equipment was interrupted by a series of 

Visitors from Space 47 

distinct pulsations. Lawrence, who had not yet digested the knockvrarst, 
but had well digested the Backster effect, thought the signals might have 
been caused by his killing some of the cells in the sausage^ Second 
thoughts reminded him that kosher sausage is biologically dead. As 
Lawrence checked his instrumentation, the audio signal, to his amaze- 
ment, continued to produce a distinct chain of pulses for over half an 
hour before the even whistle returned, indicating that nothing more was 
being received. The signals had to be coming from somewhere, and since 
his device had been continuously pointed upward toward the heavens, 
Lawrence was faced with the fantastic thought that something or some - 

one was transmitting from outer space. 

The implications of the phenomenon were such that on their way 

home Lawrence and his partner could not avoid discussing them though, 

for the moment, they decided not to make public their finding in the 

event that not true signals but "bugs” » *eir equipment could have 

produced what they had heard. The possibility of life beyond earth was 

both disturbing and exciting to them. Hints about life elsewhere have 

so far been vague, including the discovery of "organized elements or 

organisms in meteorites, and infrared spectra on Mars which imply 

organic molecules. There are also rare nonrandom radio interstellar 

Signals whose reception was claimed by Tesla and Marconi but t ey 

were so ridiculed that they were finally reduced to silence; and there are 

intergalactic radio emissions from pulsars. 

Loath to jump to a premature conclusion that he had picked up an 
intelligent signal from trillions of miles away through a plant tissue, 
Lawrence spent several months improving his equipment into what he 
termed a “biodynamic field station designed for interstellar signal rece?- 

By April of 1972, his equipment was sufficiently refined for him to 
attempt to point it once more in the same direction which had broug 
the reaction at the time of the sausage biting. As a laser expert an 
author of the first technical book on that subject to appear in Europe, 
Lawrence had carefully noted the direction in which his apparatus ha 
been pointing and had determined that it was aligned on Ursa Mapr, 
a seven-star constellation in the region of the north celestial pole, pop* 

i called the Big Dipper. To insure that the equipment would be 
y ted as far away from life forms as possible, Lawrence drove out to 
h pisgah Crater, a volcanic butte at twenty-three-hundred-feet eleva- 
. in t he middle of the arid Mojave Desert, The crater is surrounded 
k°some thirty square miles of flat lava beds with not so much as a blade 
f grass. Aligning his telescope—coupled with the Faraday tube, a cam- 
an electromagnetic interference monitor, and the tissue chamber 
toceiestial coordinates 10 hours 40 minutes plus 56 degrees, which gave 
him the general direction for Ursa Major, Lawrence switched on his 
audio signal. After a ninety-minute interval, his equipment again picked 
up a recognizable, though briefer, pattern of signals. According to Law- 
rence, the periods between rapid series of pulses ranged from approxi¬ 
mately three to ten minutes over a stretch of several hours as he moni¬ 
tored a single spot in the heavens. 

Having thus successfully repeated his 1971 observations, Lawrence 

began to wonder whether he had not accidentally stumbled on a scien¬ 
tific discovery of major proportions. He had no idea from where the 
signals might be coming or what or who was sending them, but it 
seemed to him highly possible that galactic drift played some role in 
their origin. “The signals might be spilling over from the galactic equa¬ 
tor, which has a dense star population," said Lawrence. “We could be 
getting something from that area rather than from the Big Dipper. 

After the Mojave Desert confirmation of his first observations, Law¬ 
rence continued tests from his residence-laboratory, pointing his ma¬ 
chine at the same coordinates, leaving it on round the clock. Lawrence 
says that he had to wait weeks and sometimes months for the signals to 
come through but, when they did, the reception of something was 
unmistakable. One signal produced a brr-r-r-r-r beep-beep-beep type of 
audio pulse which Lawrence maintains no earthly entity has achieved. 

Pressed to speculate on the nature of the strange signals, Lawrence 
stated: “I don’t believe they are directed at earthlings. I think we are 
dealing with transmissions between peer groups, and because we don t 
know anything about biological communications we are simply excluded 
from these Conversations.’ I also believe that the energy transmitted 
must be fantastically high since our instrumentation is not at all soph is- 


Visitors from Space 49 


ticated and it would take a tremendous amount of power to create any 
response in it from such astronomical distances. The signals, therefore, 
may be of an emergency nature. Something may be happening up there 
and someone may be desperately calling for help/' 

Deciding that his findings may be of crucial significance and could 
herald a new and as yet unimagined system of communication, Law¬ 
rence has sent a copy of his October, 1971, tape, together with a 
seven-page report, to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., 
where it is preserved as a potentially historical scientific document. The 
report concludes: 

An apparent train of interstellar communication signals of unknown 
origin and destination has been observed. Since interception was made 
by biological sensors, a biological-type signal transmission must be as¬ 
sumed. Test experiments were conducted in an electromagnetic deep- 
fringe area, the equipment itself being impervious to electromagnetic 
radiation. Follow-up tests revealed no equipment defects. Because inter¬ 
stellar listening experiments are not conducted on a routine basis, the 
suggestion is advanced that verification tests should be conducted else¬ 
where, possibly on a global scale. The phenomenon is too important to 
be ignored. 

' Lawrence says the instrumentation tape, as a mere audio presentation, 
is unpleasant to listen to, but reviewers of the tape have conceded that 
“a fascinating degree of enchantment" tends to emerge after the tape 
has been played back three or more times, typically over a period of 


The tape contains a short, incremental series of deep harmonious 
oscillations resembling nonsense chatter or background modulations. An 
intelligent character of the overall pulse train is implied by discrete 
spacing patterns, apparent repetitions of sequences, and highly at¬ 
tenuated electromagnetic noise. 

Lawrence looks forward to the day when he can arrange for computer 
analysis of the taped signals, which might be able to provide additional 
clues to their nature. They are far too rapid to allow manual extraction 
of the data. Even so, he is not too optimistic that such analysis can 
produce concrete results. “If the signals are of a personal nature, n® 


means known to modern computer technology will be able to decipher 
them,” he says. "We simply do not have today bionic-type computers 
which could collect seemingly random data and come up with a concise 
and rational readout.” 

Lawrence’s most important conclusion, that biological-type sensors 
are needed in order to intercept biological signals, applies particularly to 
communications from outer space. As he puts it: "Standard electronics 
are next to worthless here, since ‘bio-signals’ apparently reside outside 
of the known electromagnetic spectrum.” 

Lawrence points out that in the 1950s scientists who had previously 
insisted that our small planet was unique in the universe began to admit, 
on the basis of careful celestial observations and other inferences, that 
we may not be alone in the cosmic immensity, and to concede the 
possible existence of extraterrestrials, whose development might be far 
superior to our own. 

In the early nineteenth century Karl Friedrich Gauss—the German 
mathematician and physicist for whom an electromagnetic unit of mag¬ 
netic flux density is named—proposed that man might make known his 
presence on earth to cosmic beings by cutting huge swaths hundreds of 
miles long in the Siberian taiga to form a right angle. This was followed 
by the suggestion of the Austrian astronomer J. J. von Littrow that 
geometric canals be dug in the Sahara, filled with kerosene, and set 
aflame at night; and the recommendation of the French scientist Charles 
Gras that a vast mirror be built to reflect sunlight directly at Mars. 

These farfetched ideas were updated when, in the summer of 1927, 
radio observations were made which in the framework of then existing 
knowledge seemed to imply that earth might be under the scrutiny of 
communications satellites of extraterrestrial origin. Jorgen Hals, a 
Norwegian radio engineer, while listening to a short-wave radio station 
transmitting from Eindhoven in the Netherlands, heard weird echoes 
jor which he could not account. Nor could a number of Dutch and 

ri tish professors and technicians who carried out a series of experi¬ 
ments to confirm Hals’s findings. 

The puzzling anomaly was all but forgotten until the early 1950s, 
W en various specialists began to put forward a theory of extraterrestrial 

Visitors from Space SI 

interference to explain it. The theorists intrepidly assumed the '"tenn.t- 
tent existence of an interstellar communications probe designed, rst, 
to monitor solar systems for intelligent life, then retransmi ra 
queney emanations from such life, including earthlings, back to a distant 
“home-world ” Though these far-out interpretations were discounted, 
even mocked, by the mainstream of scientific opinion, the,rente 
became far less vocal when another series of observations was made, t u 
time involving a television signal which appeared to have been received 

after a mysterious delay of over three years. 

In September, 1953, C. W. Bradley of London picked up the call 

letters of the American station KLEE-TV in Houston, Texas on h,s 
living-room television tube. Over the next several months the same 
letters were observed on TV screens in the offices of Atlantic Electron,* 
Ltd in the English city of Lancaster. What was eerie about these 
receptions was not that the TV signal had been sent from so far away 
since this happens often enough to cause no surprise, but that the signal 

had been sent about three years prior to the time of lts r «-' e P tl0n ’ 
call letters KLEE having been changed to KPRC in 1950. Explanations 
that the signals could have been stored in a “plasma cloud hoven g 
above the earth which released the data in a broadcast for all to see gav 
no reasons as to how this could have been done or why, and ««§««»• 
that the whole thing was merely a meaningless—though extremely 

pensive—hoax seem far-fetched. i 

Spurred by the mysteries of these phenomena, Amencan research 

began seriously to consider interstellar communications via radio JBu 
radio was soon ruled out after it was realized that its ngths could 

be absorbed by interstellar gas clouds and nebulae, blocked y™> 
shielding layers around hoped-for faraway target planets, or affected 
“t radio noise. Only one possible wavelength remained to read 
such targets, the much shorter and more penetrating one emitte , 

neutral galactic hydrogen. , , q rn 

But terrestrials still hoped to receive radio waves from space. In 

Dr Frank Drake initiated Project Ozma-named for the pnneess wh 

became ruler of the fictional kingdom of Oz-which used a huge eircub 

radio telescope eighty-five feet in diameter at the National Radio As 


tronomy Observatory near Greenbank, West Virginia. Drake and his 
colleagues hoped to detect possible intelligent extraterrestrial transmis¬ 
sions from the regions of two nearby stars, Tau Ceti and Epsilon Eridani. 
Only recently was it discovered that orbiting Epsilon Eridani is a massive 
planet six times the weight of Jupiter, largest of the nine planets now 
known to revolve around the sun. 

Although Ozma failed to obtain results, scientists are still hotly pursu¬ 
ing the subject of communication with extraterrestrial intelligences, the 
phrase being now shortened into the acronym CETI. 

In the summer of 1971, a group of American scientists at the National 
Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Ames Research Center com¬ 
pleted studies for a new Project Cyclops, which proposed a network of 
ten thousand radio dish telescopes, forming a collective surface of several 
square kilometers, to be mounted on rails and spread across one hundred 
square miles of the New Mexican desert. Requiring a cybernetic “ner¬ 
vous system” of brand-new supercomputers, Cyclops was estimated by 
Charles Seeger of New Mexico State University to cost Eve billion 
dollars. In light of the stringent cutbacks in the U.S. space-research 
funding, it is unlikely that Cyclops will become a reality. This leaves the 
field to a huge radio telescope more than half a kilometer in diameter 
currently under construction at the Astrophysical Observatory in the 
Soviet Crimea. 

All of these projects, Lawrence complains, assume that signals must 
come by radio since that is the most efficient means of communication 
known to the scientists of this planet. If they converted to his idea of 
receiving biological signals, Lawrence feels they would have a much 
better chance. The notion is echoed by Joseph F. Goodavage, author of 
Astrology; The Space Age Science, who, in an article for Saga magazine 
{January, 1973), stated: “Rigid enforcement of established Scientific 
Method, as a kind of quasi-religion—with its burdensome ritual and 
hadition—may be the most serious obstacle in the path of direct com¬ 
munication between Homo sapiens and other civilizations that may be 
thriving throughout interstellar, intergalactic space.” 

Employed as an instrumentation engineer for a Los Angeles space- 
science corporation, Lawrence decided to design some more sophis- 

Visitors from Space 53 

ticated transducers—or converters of one type of input energy into! 
another type of output energy. Knowing that a mechanical device which ■ 
could use heat, environmental pressure, electrostatic fields, and gravity 
tional changes simultaneously was not up to the task, he theorized that 
a plant might be able to turn the trick because it had the necessary 
components built in by nature. 

When he began to study the problem in 1963, Lawrence found he 
could get no help from plant specialists and biologists because none of 
them knew enough physics, and especially electronics, to visualize what 
he was driving at. In his search for a biological system for radiating and 
receiving signals, Lawrence began by going over the experiments made 
in the 1920s by the Russian histologist Alexander Gurwitsch and his 
wife, who proclaimed that all living cells produce an invisible radiation. 
Gurwitsch had noticed that the cells in the tips of onion roots seemed 
to be dividing at a definite rhythm. Believing this due to an extra 
unexplained source of physical energy, Gurwitsch wondered whether it 

might not come from nearby cells. 

To test out his theory he mounted one root tip in a horizontally 
oriented thin glass tube to act as a ray gun. This he pointed at a similar 
onion root tip, also protected in a tube, but with a small area on one 
side exposed naked to serve as a target. After three hours of exposure, 
Gurwitsch examined sections from the target root under his microscope. 
When he compared the number of cell divisions, he found 25 percent 
more in the exposed, irradiated area. The receiver root had seemingly 
picked up a vital energy from its sender neighbor. 

To try to block the emission, Gurwitsch repeated the experiment with 
a thin shield of quartz between the roots, but obtained essentially the 
same results. However, when the quartz was coated with gelatin, or a 
simple sheet of glass was substituted, no enhanced cell division could to 
observed. Since glass and gelatin were known to block various ultraviolet 
frequencies on the electromagnetic spectrum, Gurwitsch concluded thal 
the rays emitted by the cells of an onion root tip must be as short as Of i 
shorter than ultraviolet. Because they apparently increased cell division 
or “mitosis,” he called them “mitogenetic rays.” J 

Gurwitsch’s findings had created a furor in the scientific world & 1 


laboratories hastened to check them. Since the wavelengths claimed for 
the new rays were more powerful than the ultraviolet frequencies which 
teach the earth from the sun, many biologists could not believe that 
living processes were capable of generating them. In Paris two research¬ 
ers reported similar results, in \loscow one of Gurwitsch f s own country¬ 
men showed that he could increase the budding of yeast more than 25 
percent by exposing it to “mitogenetic” rays from onion roots. 

A pair of scientists at the Siemens and Halske Electric Company near 
Berlin came to the verdict that the radiation was a fact; and in Frankfort, 
a researcher actually succeeded in measuring it, not through its effect 
on vegetal life, but with electrical instruments. On the other hand, 
equally reliable Anglo-Saxon investigators could detect no effects. In the 
United States, when the prestigious Academy of Sciences issued a report 
that Gurwitsch’s discovery was not replicable, and therefore strongly 

suggested it might be the product of his imagination, Gurwitsch was 
sped into limbo. 

Though Lawrence lacked an ultraviolet spectrometer to detect “mito¬ 
genetic radiation, he was fascinated by Gurwitsch f s system of directing 
the energy. His observations also nudged Lawrence almost involuntarily 
to the position that there was a psychological, or “mental," factor 
involved in GurwitschV maverick work. Continuing to probe further 
with a sensitive high-impedance device of his own design, Lawrence 
sought to discover whether individual cells in'a quarter-inch slice of 
onion, attached to a Wheatstone bridge and an electrometer, would 
react to various stimuli. He found that they seemed to respond to 
irritations such as a puff of smoke, or even to his mental image of their 

destruction, in about one hundred milliseconds, or one tenth of a sec¬ 


^Vhat seemed most odd to Lawrence was that the reaction of the 
°nion tissue seemed to change depending on whether he, or someone 
6 p was directing thought at it. People with “psychic gifts" seemed to 
j-iC!t much stronger responses than the practical-minded Lawrence. As 
e commented: If one can cause, or get something to cause, harm to 
Jf assuming that the cell has a cellular consciousness—the reaction 
rem in it will change from experimenter to experimenter.” 

Visitors /rom Space 55 


About this time Lawrence came across Backster s work and decide^ 
to build a sophisticated psycho-galvanic analyzer or plant response dete c . 
tor. With his new equipment, Lawrence got a series of “wild'’ tracings 
from his plants; but, because of what he retrospectively calls his “ign& 
ranee and classical Prussian orthodoxy, he ascribed these effects to 
faults in his instrumentation. Nevertheless, his suspicion that plant 
tissues could pick up human thought and emotion slowly became mot E 
concrete in the light of Backster s achievements. Lawrence was r E , 
minded that years previously Sir fames Jeans, the British astronomer, 
had written that “the stream of human knowledge is impartially heading 
toward a non-mechanical reality: the Universe begins to look more like 
a great thought than a great machine. Mind no longer appears as an 
accidental intruder into the realm of matter. We are beginning to 
suspect that we ought rather to hail it as the creator and governor of this 


In October of 1969, Lawrence began to publish a series of popular 
articles based on his reading and research, the first of which appeared 
as “Electronics and the Living Plant” in Electronics World Lawrenct 
told his readers that, for the first time in the millennia since the first 
green leaves poked their heads out of Paleozoic swamps, plants were al 
last beginning to be studied for their “electrodynamic properties.” 

Four main questions, said Lawrence, were starting to attract serious 
attention: Could plants be integrated with electronic readouts to font 
major data sensors and transducers? Could they be trained to respont 
to the presence of selected objects and images? Were their alleged 
supersensory perceptions verifiable? Of the 350,000 plant species knotfi 
to science, which were the most promising from the electronic point 0 


Providing detailed instructions for investigating the behavior of livii? 
plant cells with microelectrodes, Lawrence also reported that in tb 
“Moon Garden” developed by Republic Aviation at Farmingdale, N* 
York, scientists had been able in the 1960s to induce what appeared t 
be “nervous breakdown” and “complete frustration in plants beifi 
tested as possible space foods and that, even earlier, in his laboratory 1 
East Grinstead, Sussex, England, L. Ron Hubbard, founder of Sci0 


olo gy, had noted that plants dislike certain types of artificial light, such 
as the cold light emitted by sodium street lamps, which can cause them 
to come out in a cold sweat clearly visible on their foliage. 

Lawrence warned his readers that work with plants was not just a 
matter of electronic expertise and that working with the Backster Effect 
involved much more than the mere ability to construct top-quality 
electronic equipment. "There are certain qualities here,” he wrote, 
"which do not enter into normal experimental situations. According to 
those experimenting in this area, it is necessary to have a ‘green thumb' 
and, most important, a genuine love for plants." 

Half a year later Lawrence followed up his revelations with an even 
more controversial article in the same magazine, entitled “Electronics 
and Parapsychology." Lawrence’s article began by asking: “Does man 
possess latent sensitivities that have been stifled by modern communica¬ 
tions systems?” He then pointed out that although the fledgling science 
of parapsychology, long suspect because of an occult background, was 
having to fight for acceptance, the application of electronic instruments 
was permitting dramatic new experiments and bringing forth stunning 
discoveries which might rival the orthodox communications arts and 
sciences currently in use. 

Stressing that the need for machine systems capable of testing ESP 
in an unbiased, impartial manner had been recognized fifty years ago, 
when an Italian scientist, Federico Cazzamalli, developed an ultra-high- 
frequency apparatus for testing human telepathy, Lawrence reported 
that the Italian’s experiments had never been repeated because the 
Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had declared the work secret. 

A fascinating offspring of Cazzamalli's ideas and machine, continued 
Lawrence, is an apparatus called the “Integratron,” researched by 
George W. van Tassel, a self-taught inventor living in Yucca Valley, 
California, not far from the Giant Rock airport. Developed over twenty 
years, and still under construction, van Tassel’s contrivance is housed in 
a non-metallic domelike structure thirty-eight feet high and fifty-eight 
feet in diameter, which looks like an astronomical observatory. It is an 
electrostatic, magnetic generator with armatures over four times larger 
than any others in existence. The Proceedings of van Tassel’s College 

Visitors from Space 57 

of Universal Wisdom state that the fields generated by his machine 
encompass its entire structure and this is why the dome contains m 
nails, bolts, or metal but is held together like a Chinese puzzle and is 
six times stronger than the commercial building code requires. When 
completed it promises, says van Tassel, not only to help solve the pro]> 
lem of extraterrestrial communication, but to afford such possibilities as 
rejuvenation of body cells, an antigravity force, and the ultimate q| 
psychic experiences: time travel. 

What puzzles orthodox scientists and makes skeptics of many of them 
is a lack of any working theory to cover this kind of phenomenon. On« 
scientist, Dr. W. G. Roll, in his presidential address to the 7th Annual 
Convention of the Parapsychological Association held in Oxford, En 
gland, in 1964, postulated “psi-fields,” which might be analogous to 
electromagnetic or gravitational fields, possibly possessed by all objects* 
living and nonliving, which could react with known physical fields and 
with one another. Another theory, put forward by Dr. G. D. Wasserman 
at the Ciba Foundation Symposium in 1956, leans on quantum mechan 
ics. Wasserman suggests that '"psi-fields,” which enable persons to have 
paranormal experiences, are due to the reception of inconceivably small 
"quanta of energy,” far more minute than those which can be absorbed 
' by matter fields of classical physics. 

The Backster Effect and other related considerations, says Lawrence, 
"lead to the idea that psi is but a part of a so-called ‘paranormal matrix 
—a unique communications grid which binds all life together. It! 
phenomena apparently work on a multi-input basis which operate! 
beyond currently known physical laws.” Within this framework, say 
Lawrence, plants, after sensitization or conditioning by their owners 
can reach a state of communication in which they are able to react tt 
their owners' emotions or states of mind even when they are far away 

In the June, 1971, issue of Popular Electronics , Lawrence provide* 
any researcher wishing to investigate communication with plants witl 
detailed diagrams and a parts list for a "response detector” allowing ft* 
extremely sensitive tests. 

Warning that constant repetition was an important factor in sud 
testing, Lawrence stated that if a plant specimen is stimulated conti rut 


nusly> hadly injured, or infrequently watered, it would tire quickly, or 
even lapse into shock and die. Researchers were therefore cautioned to 
jje gentle with their plants and allow them to recuperate after ex¬ 
perimentation. The area in which plants live must be quiet, added 
Lawrence, “so that the stimuli can be effectively applied with a mini¬ 
mum of power-line noise or disturbances from radio-frequency transmis¬ 
sion to cause faulty indications.” 

Lawrence's ideas about plants were corroborated and elaborated by 
the experience of a Czech publisher and student of physiological psy¬ 
chology, Jan Merta, now living in Canada, whose psychic gifts allow him 
to plunge an iron bar into a blacksmith's forge, heat it to incandescence, 
then calmly brush sparks off its white-hot end with his bare hand as easily 
as he would rub dust from a shelf. 

Freshly settled in Canada, Merta supported himself for two months 
by working as a troubleshooter for a large Montreal grower and importer 
of tropical plants. When clients in office and residential buildings com¬ 
plained that their plants were getting sick, Merta was sent to.ascertain 

the trouble. Because he also took care of thousands of plants in the firm's 


extensive greenhouses, Merta noticed that the effects of loneliness pro¬ 
duced when a plant is taken away from hundreds of its friends often 
caused it such a shock that it would pine, even die; however, when 
returned to the greenhouse, it immediately perked up and regained its 
normal green health. 

As the result of hundreds of “house calls,” Merta noticed that plants 
throve better when constantly communicated with by office workers and 
home owners than if left to themselves. Examples of the majestic Ficus 
benjamini, nearly thirty feet tall, transported from Florida, though in 
excellent condition upon arrival, when placed around a fountain in a 
shopping center’s indoor circular solarium started to wilt within two days 
ln spite of careful watering and feeding. Yet those in heavily traveled 
Passageways leading to the solarium retained their radiant vigor. To 
Merta this was a sure sign that the Ficus enjoyed being admired by the 


In 1970, when Lawrence read that in the Ukraine radio frequencies 
and ultrasonic vibrations had been used to stimulate cereal grain seeds 

Visitors from Space 59 

to produce higher yields as far back as the early 1950s and that the 
United States Department of Agriculture had successfully experimented 
in the same way, he gave up his college position and set about indepen. 
dently developing advanced equipment with which he hopes that seed 
grains can be provoked, on a commercial scale, to grow better and faster. 
“If a plant seedling can be stimulated on a parapsychological basis, as 
the famous plant breeder Luther Burbank knew, then I don't see why," 
says Lawrence, “we can’t transmit specific signals to whole fields of crops 
to stimulate their growth without all these damned soil-killing fertiliz. 

j j 


In the February, 1971, issue of Popular Electronics Lawrence pre¬ 
sented his own experimental arrangement to test his theories about 
stimulating plant growth in an extremely high-voltage electrostatic field 
It is the invention and use of cheap chemical fertilizers, he asserted, 
which has suppressed the ideas of countless engineers about how to 
nourish plants electrically. With nitrate pollution from these fertilizers 
threatening the world’s ecological panorama and its water supply, he 
urges that these ideas be revived. 

Acting on his own advice, Lawrence is working up patent applications 
on special sound-type plant stimulation techniques, which he is combin¬ 
ing with Backster Effect methods in order to stimulate his plants in a 
wireless fashion. This effort has turned Lawrence the engineer into 

Lawrence the philosopher. “There was a time, when I was a child, when 
the whole world seemed alive and knowing,” he wrote in Organic Gar¬ 
dening and Farming. “Trees were friends and as George Eliot put it: 
‘Flowers see us and know what we’re thinking about.’ Then came a time 
when plants just grew, silently and without emotion. But today, I’m 
entering a second childhood, as least as far as plants are concerned." 

Lawrence, torn between his interest in stimulating plant growth elec¬ 
trically and his projects to achieve interstellar communication, feels that 
the effort to contact extraterrestrial life is more important in the long 
run because “if routine results can be achieved in CETI, many questions 
attached to riddles in the plant kingdom will be answered as a conse¬ 

On June 5, 1973, the research division of Anchor College of Truth 


in San Bernardino announced that it was inaugurating the world’s first 
,-^Qgicahtype interstellar communications observatory under the direc¬ 
tion of L. George Lawrence, now also a vice-president of Anchor. For 
the new research program Lawrence has designed what he calls a Stellar- 
tron, which combines in one three-ton instrument the features of a radio 
telescope and the biological signal-receiving system of the biodynamic 

field station. 

Anchor president, Ed Johnson, told the press that since radio as¬ 
tronomy had failed to detect intelligent signals from space, the college 
was backing Lawrence's idea that radio transmission was out of date and 
that biological communication should be given a trial. 

Pointing out that in our own galaxy alone there are some 200 billion 
stars, Lawrence says that if one assumed each of them to have at least 
five companion planets, a total of one trillion might consequently be 
available for study. Even if only one planet in a thousand has intelligent 
life this would amount to one billion in our galaxy alone. Multiplied by 
the ten billion galaxies believed to comprise the observable universe, 
then there may be 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 planets capable of send¬ 
ing some kind of signal to Earth. 

Anchor's founder, Reverend Alvin M. Harrell, thinks that contact 
with another race in the universe will trigger a tremendous explosion of 
knowledge. As Harrell says: “Given the destructive brutality of human¬ 
kind, we may expect any newly discovered civilization to be infinitely 
more loving and compassionate than we are.” 

“Perhaps plants are the true extraterrestrials,” Lawrence observes, 
“for they converted an early mineral world into a habitat suitable for 
man by processes that border on near-perfect magic! What remains to 
be done now is to remove all traces of occultism and make plant re¬ 
sponse, including communications phenomena, a verifiable component 
of orthodox physics. Our instrumentation concepts reflect this effort.” 

If Lawrence is on the right track, the ardently desired prospect of 
Producing hardware to move man into the vastness of interstellar space 
on Columbian voyages of discovery will be rendered as obsolete as 
Columbus’s flagship, Santa Maria. Lawrence’s research, suggesting as it 
does that intelligences are communicating instantly across distances 

Visitors from Space 61 

requiring millions of light-years to reach, indicates that what is needed 
is not spaceships but the proper “telephone numbers to contact them. 
Though the work is still in an exploratory stage, his biodynamic field 
station may be a step toward plugging into the universal switchboard, 
with plants as the pretty, cheerful and efficient co-operators. 




Latest Soviet Discoveries 

In Russia, millions of newspaper readers were introduced to the ideas 
that plants communicate their feelings to man in October, 1970, when 
Pravda published an article entitled “What Leaves Tell Us.” 

Plants talk . . . yes, they scream,” declared the official organ of the 
Communist party. “It only seems that they accept their misfortunes 
submissively and silently bear pain.” Pravda 's reporter, V. Chertkov, 
tells how he witnessed these extraordinary goings-on in Moscow when 
visited the Laboratory for Artificial Climate at the renowned 
uniryazev Academy of Agricultural Sciences. 

Before my eyes a barley sprout literally cried out when its roots were E 
plunged into hot water. True, the plant’s “voice" was registered only by 
a special and extremely sensitive electronic instrument which revealed a ■ 
“bottomless vale of tears" on a broad paper band. As though it had gone ■ 
crazy, the recording pen wriggled out on the white track the death agony 
of the barley sprout, although, to look at the little plant itself, one would 
never have guessed what it was going through. While its leaves, green as 
ever, stood upright, the plant’s “organism” was already dying. Some kind 
of “brain” cells within it were telling us what was happening. 

Pravda's reporter also interviewed Professor Ivan Isidorovich Gunar, ‘ 
head of the academy's Department of Plant Physiology, who, together 
with his staff, had performed hundreds of experiments, all of which 
confirm the presence of electrical impulses in plants similar to the 
well-known nerve impulses in man. The Pravda article noted that Gunar 
talked about plants as he would about people, distinguishing their indi¬ 
vidual habits, characteristics, and proclivities. “He even appears to con- 
verse with them," Chertkov wrote, and it seems to me that his plants 
pay attention to this good, graying man. Only persons invested with 
certain power are like this. I have even been told of a test pilot who 
talked to his misbehaving airplane, and I myself have met an old captain 

who talked with his ship.” 

When Gunar's chief assistant, Leonid A. Panishkin, a former engi¬ 
neer, was asked by the Pravda reporter why he gave up the technology 
in which he was trained in order to work in Gunar s laboratory, be 
replied: “Well, there I used to be involved with metallurgy; here there 
is life." He was echoed by another young laboratory worker, Tatiana 
Tsimbalist, who affirmed that since she had come to work with Gunar 
she had “learned to look at nature with different eyes.” 

Panishkin said he was particularly interested in searching out those 
conditions which might best suit the specific needs of plants and how 
“our green friends "—as the Pravda reporter termed them—react to 
light and darkness. By using a special lamp which shone with the same 
intensity as the sun’s rays reaching earth he had found that plants tired 
in an overextended day and needed rest at night. He hoped that it might 
one day be possible for plants to turn lights on or off in a greenhouse 
at will: “a live electric relay." 


The studies of the Gunar team may open up new vistas in plant 
breeding, since in their laboratory it has been found that individual 
plants more resistant to heat, cold, and other climatological factors can 
be “selected" within minutes by testing them with their instruments, 
although these qualities have heretofore taken geneticists years to estab¬ 

In the summer of 1971, an American delegation from the Association 
for Research and Enlightenment (ARE), founded by the seer and healer 
Edgar Cayce at Virginia Beach, Virginia, visited Russia. The Americans 
—four medical doctors, two psychologists, one physicist, and two educa¬ 
tors—were shown a film by Panishkin entitled Are Plants Sentient? The 
film demonstrated effects produced on plants by environmental factors 
such as sunlight, wind, clouds, the dark of night, the tactual stimulus 
from flies and bees, injuries produced by chemicals and burning, and 
even the very proximity of a vine to a structure to which it might cling. 
The film showed further that the immersion of a plant in chloroform 
vapor eliminates the characteristic biopotential pulse normally apparent 
when a leaf is given a sharp blow; it also indicated that the Russians are 
now studying the characteristics of these pulses to establish the relative 
degree of a plant’s health. 

One of the American doctors, William McGarey, head of the ARE 
medical research center in Phoenix, Arizona, stated in his report that 
the intriguing part of the movie was the method used to record the data. 
Time-lapse photography made the plants seem to dance as they grew. 
Flowers opened and closed with the coming of darkness as if they were 
creatures living in a different time zone. All injury-induced changes were 
recorded by a sensitive polygraph attached to the plants. 

In April, 1972, Weltwoche , a Swiss newspaper published in Zurich, 
came out with an account of both Backster’s and Gunar's work which 

said had taken place simultaneously and independently. That same 
^cek the Swiss article was translated into Russian in a weekly review of 
me foreign press, Za Ruhezhom ( Abroad ) published in Moscow by the 
USSR’s Union of Journalists, under the caption: “The Wonderful 
of Plants." These scientists, said the Russian version, are 
proposing that plants receive signals and transmit them through special 

Latest Soviet Discoveries 65 

channels to a given center, where they process the information and 
prepare answering reactions. This nervous center could be located in 
root tissues which expand and contract like heart muscle in man. Th e j 
experiments showed that plants have a definite life rhythm and die when j 

they don’t get regular periods of rest and quiet. ; 

The Weltwoche article also caught the attention of the editors ot the 
Moscow newspaper Izvestiya, who assigned their reporter M. Matveyev 
to do a story for the paper’s weekly magazine supplement. Though the 
newsman referred to Backster’s suggestion that plants might have mem¬ 
ory, language, and even rudiments of altruism, he strangely omitted 
Backster's most startling discovery, that his philodendron had perceived 

his intent to harm it. 

Deciding {the Izvestiya reporter told his readers) that a sensation was 
being propagated in Western newspapers,” Matveyev traveled to Lenin¬ 
grad, where he interviewed Vladimir Grigorievich Karamanov, director 
of the Laboratory of Biocybernetics of the Institute of Agrophysics, in 

order to get an authoritative opinion. 

The Institute of Agrophysics was founded over forty years ago at t c 
behest of the renowned solid-state physicist, Academician Abram 
Feodorovich Ioffe, who became particularly interested in the practical 
s application of physics to the design of new products, first in industry, 
then in agriculture. After the institute opened its doors, Karamanov, 
then a young biologist, was inspired by Ioffe to familiarize himself with 
the world of semiconductors and cybernetics and, in due course, began 
building microthermistors, weight tensiometers, and other instruments 
to register the temperature of plants, the flow rate of fluid in their stems 
and leaves, the intensity of their transpiration, their growth rates, and 
characteristics of their radiation. He was soon picking up detailed infor¬ 
mation on when and how much a plant wants to drink, whether it craves 

more nourishment or is too hot or cold. In the first issue of Re P 0 ^ 
the USSR Academy of Sciences for 1959, Karamanov published T * 
Application of Automation and Cybernetics to Plant Husbandry. 

According to the Izvestiya reporter, Karamanov showed that an or i 
nary bean plant had acquired the equivalent of ‘"hands to signal afl 
instrumental brain how much light it needed. When the brain sent ttf 


"hands” signals, “they had only to press a switch, and the plant was thus 
(forded the capability of independently establishing the optimal length 
of its ‘day’ and night.’ ” Later, the same bean plant, having acquired 
the equivalent of “legs,” was able instrumentally to signal whenever it 
wanted water. “Showing itself to be a fully rational being,” the account 
continued, “it did not guzzle the water indiscriminately but limited 
itself to a two-minute drink each hour, thus regulating its water need 

with the help of an artificial mechanism. 

“This was a genuine scientific and technical sensation,” concluded 
the Izvestiya reporter, “a clear demonstration of twentieth-century 
man’s technical abilities.” 

Asked whether.he thought Backster had discovered something new, 
Karamanov somewhat condescendingly replied: “Nothing of the sort! 
That plants are able to perceive the surrounding world is a truth as old 
as the world itself. Without perception, adaptation does not and cannot 
exist. If plants had no sense organs and didn’t have a means of transmit¬ 
ting and processing information with their own language and memory, 
they would inevitably perish.” 

Karamanov, who throughout the interview made not a single com¬ 
ment on plants’ ability to perceive human thought and emotion— 
Backster’s really sensational discovery—and seemed oblivious of Back¬ 
ster’s success in getting his philodendron to recognize a “plant assassin, 
rhetorically asked the Izvestiya reporter: “Can plants discern shapes? 
Can they, for instance, differentiate a man causing them hurt from 
another who waters them?” Replying to his own question, while at the 
same time putting Backster into what he considered to be a proper 
perspective for Soviet readers, Karamanov said: “Today I cannot answer 
such a question. And not because I doubt that Backster’s experiments 
were immaculately set up and repeatedly performed, though perhaps a 
door slammed, or a draft wafted into the room, or something else. The 
feet is that neither he, nor we, nor anyone else in the world is yet ready 
to decipher all plant responses, hear and understand what they ‘say’ to 
°oe another, or what they ‘shout’ at us.” 

Karamanov also predicted that in the long run it would be possible 
tybernetically to direct all the physiological processes of plants not, as 

Latest Soviet Discoveries 67 

he put it, “for the sake of sensation, but for the advantage of plants | 
themselves.” When plants are able to auto-regulate their environment 
and establish optimal conditions for their own growth with the help of 
electronic instruments, said Karamanov, this should be a long step to.! 
ward larger harvests of cereal grains, vegetables, and fruits. Making cleat i 
that the achievements were not just around the corner, Karamanov 
added, “We are not still learning to talk with plants and understand 
their peculiar language. We are working out criteria which will help us 
to control the life of plants. Along this difficult but fascinating road, a 
multitude of surprises still await us.” 

The Izvestiya article was followed that summer by a story in the 
monthly magazine Nauka i Religiya (Science and Religion ), which has | 
the dual aim of putting forward the latest findings in world science while 
at the same time playing down—in a section headed “The Theory and 
Practice of Atheism”—the church-defended notion of a spiritual world 
hierarchically beyond that of man. 

The article’s author, engineer A. Merkulov, going further than the; 
Izvestiya weekend supplement, recounted how the plant of the “Ameri¬ 
can criminologist” Backster had not only responded to the scalding 
death of brine shrimp but also to the killer of its vegetal neighbor. Such 
response to people’s moods, added Merkulov, had also been detected at 
the state university in Alma Ata, capital of the Soviet Kazakh Republic, 
the apple orchard of the Soviet Union. There scientists have found that 
plants repeatedly react to their owners’ illnesses and to their emotional 

Noting that plants had long ago been shown to have “short-term 
memory,” Merkulov said that this fact too had been confirmed by the 
Kazakh scientists. Beans, potatoes, wheat, and crowfoot ( Ranunculus) 
after proper “instruction” seemed to have the capability of remember¬ 
ing the frequency of flashes from a xenon-hydrogen lamp. The plants 
repeated the pulsations with what Merkulov called “exceptional accu¬ 
racy,” and since crowfoot was able to repeat a given frequency after 3 
pause as long as eighteen hours it was possible to speak of “long-term 
memory in plants. 

The scientists next went on, according to Merkulov, to condition 3 


philodendron to recognize when a piece of mineralized rock was put 
beside it. Using the system developed by Pavlov with dogs, whereby he 
discovered the ^conditioned reflex,” the Kazakh scientists simultane¬ 
ously “punished a philodendron with an electrical shock each time a 
mineralized ore was placed next to it. They reported that, after condi¬ 
tioning, the same plant, anticipating the hurtful shock, would get “emo¬ 
tionally upset whenever the block of ore was put beside it. Further¬ 
more, said the Kazakh scientists, the plant could distinguish between 
mineralized ore and a similar piece of barren rock containing no miner¬ 
als, a feat which might indicate that plants will one day be used in 
geological prospecting. 

Merkulov concluded his reportage with the idea that the control of 
all processes in plant growth was the ultimate goal of all the new 
experimentation. In an institute of physics in the Siberian city of Kras¬ 
noyarsk, he wrote, Physicists are even now regulating the growth of a 
monocellular seaweed, Chlorelh. Experiments are continuing and 
becoming increasingly complex, and there is no doubt that in the not- 
distant future scientists will be able to control the growth, not only of 
the simplest, but of higher plants.” 

Merkulov beguiled his readers with the idea that this control might 
well be possible over great distances. “By studying how to understand’ 

p ants, e prophesied, man may create automatic contrivances which 
themselves will watch over fields in such a way that, at any given 
moment, they can satisfy the every need of crops. The day is not far away 
* en scientists will also work out a theory on the adaptation and resis¬ 
tance of plants to unpleasant conditions m their environment which will 

^compass how they react to irritants, and to stimulators and herbicides 
dS well. 

the end of 1972 Soviet readers were given more food for 

iBi.*r arhcle F1 ° wer Reca11 ” P ublisl,ed in the popular color- 
atated Znaniya Sila (Knowledge h Power), one of the many maga- 

issued by the Knowledge Society, the leading organization for 

Hune r SCIenCe ln the USSR T1>is time its author was not a news- 
wy journalist or an inspired engineer but a professor and doctor of 

° glcal sc,e nces, V. N. Pushkin. Far from suggesting that the 

Latest Soviet Discoveries 69 

American criminologist Backster had really not discovered anythin# 
new, Pushkin began with a complete description of Backster’s shrimp 
experiment. He then let his readers in on the fact that one of his young 
colleagues, V. M. Fetisov, had made him aware of Backster’s accom. 
plishments in the first place, and had been so determined to work wity 
the Backster Effect that he had persuaded Pushkin to take part in the 
experiments. Fetisov brought an ordinary potted geranium from hij 
home and attached it to an encephalograph. 

As Fetisov was making his first attempts to get a response from hi$ 
pet plant, Georgi Angushev, a Bulgarian student working up a disserta¬ 
tion in psychology at the Lenin Pedagogical Institute in Moscow, heard 
about the Fetisov-Pushkin experiments and came to their laboratory to 
see what was going on. Pushkin described Angushev as a talented r& ’ 
searcher with many qualities, the most important of which to theii! 
“psycho-botanical experiments," as he termed them, was the fact that 
the Bulgarian was an excellent hypnotist. 

Fetisov and Pushkin surmised that a hypnotized person should be able 
to send emotions to a plant more directly and spontaneously than a 
person in a normal state. Hypnotizing a young girl by the name of 
Tanya, who was described by Pushkin as of “lively temperament and! 

- spontaneous emotionality,” they first implanted in her the notion tha! 
she was one of the most beautiful women in the world, then the notion 
that she was freezing in harsh raw weather. At each change in the girli 
mood the plant, which was attached to an encephalograph, responded 
with an appropriate pattern on the graph. “We were able," says Push¬ 
kin, “to get an electrical reaction as many times as we worked, even tn' 

pf a number from 1 to 10. At the same time she was told she would never 
reveal the number, even if pressed to do so. When the researchers 
counted slowly from 1 to 10, pausing after each digit to inquire whether 
it was the one she had thought of, each time Tanya responded with a 
decisive “No!" Though the psychologists could not see any difference 
in her answers, the plant gave a specific and clear reaction to her internal 
state when the number 5 was counted. It was the number which Tanya 
had selected and promised not to reveal. 

In his conclusion Pushkin stated that he felt strongly that by pursuing 

the course initiated by Backster it might be possible to make advances 

into the thorny problem of the human brain’s functioning, which Pavlov 

over half a century ago had called the "crown of earthly nature.” Seizing 

die opportunity for a political remark, Pushkin reminded those who 

might look askance at his and Fetisov's new research that at the opening 

of Moscow Institute of Psychology in 1914 Pavlov had declared that the 

task of unlocking the mysteries of the brain and its activity was “so 

unexpressibly enormous and complex that it depends on the totality of 

thought’s resources, namely, complete freedom, and bold deviation from 
set patterns of research." 

Using Pavlov as a shield against what he obviously thought would be 
attacks from his professional colleagues, Pushkin stressed that the re¬ 
nowned physiologist’s statement was as up to date in 1972 as when he 
ted made it. Lest his message not ring clear, he added: “Experience in 
the development of natural sciences, especially physics, has shown that 

one should not fear new discoveries, however paradoxical they might 
seem at first glance." 

the most arbitrary commands.” j 

To obviate criticism that the plant’s response was only the result d 
chance events taking place in the room, the Muscovite psychology 
switched on their encephalograph and let it run for long periods betwetfj 
their experiments. But the instrument never registered any reaction*! 
the kind evoked in the plant by the emotions suggested to a hypnotize 

subject. i 

Pushkin and Fetisov decided to see whether the plant could det$ 
a lie, as Backster had claimed. It was suggested to Tanya that she 


n His conclusion, the Moscow professor speculated that vegetal cells 

! n * e flower react to Processes taking place in the nervous system of 
®nan subjects or in what is vaguely referred to as their “emotional 
es. Seeking a meaning for the flower’s reaction, Pushkin wrote: 

nJr aPS between k™ informational systems, the plant cells and the 
us system, a specific link exists. The language of the plant cell may 
Elated to that of the nerve cell. These wholly different living cells 
to be able to understand’ one another.” 

* Ushkin further theorized that in the cells of a flower there take place 

Latest Soviet Discoveries 71 

processes somehow related tc mentation and asserted that man s psychf 
—a word which he says is as yet entirely undefined even by the “ologists" 
of his own discipline—and the perception, thought, and memory co* 
nected to it are all just a specialization of processes existing at the level 

of vegetal cells. 

Pushkin asserts that this conclusion is most important since it will 
open new thinking about the origin of the nervous system. Noting that 
in the development of science many different answers have been pro. 
posed for what constitutes the actual informational material in human 
thought, Pushkin skipped lightly over various theories, ranging from tht 
one that holds nerve cells to be elements of a living cybernetic computer 
to the one which claims that not the cells but the molecules of matter 
within them may be the basic informational units. 

“What is actually irritating the flower?” asked Pushkin, then an¬ 
swered that it might turn out to be some kind of biophysical structure, 
the ejection of which beyond the confines of the human organism takes 
place the moment a marked emotional state is reached and carries 
information about the person from whom it is ejected. Whatever the 
truth may turn out to be, continued Pushkin, one thing is sure: “Re 
search into the plant and man interrelationships can shed light on som 
"of the most urgent problems in contemporary psychology.” 

The magic and mystery of the world of plants lying behind thes 
scientific doings have also recently become the subject of a new book 
entitled Grass by a popular Slavophile writer, Vladimir Soloukhin, whicl 
appeared in four issues of the three-million-circulation magazine Adtik 
i Zhizn (Science and Life) at the end of 1972. Born a country boy it 
a village outside the ancient city of Vladimir in northern Russia, Solo* 
khin became fascinated with the Pravda account of Gunar’s work m 
wondered why it had not evoked more excitement among his 

“Perhaps the elements of memory in plants are superficially treated 
he writes, “but at least there they are in black and white! Yet no off 1 
calls his friends or neighbors, no one shouts in a drunken voice over $ 
telephone: Have you heard the news? Plants can feel! They can $ 
pain! They cry out! Plants remember everything!” 

When Soloukhin began to telephone his own friends in excitement 
lie learned from one of them that a prominent member of the Soviet 
Academy of Sciences, working in Akademgorodok, the new town inhab¬ 
ited almost exclusively by research scientists on the outskirts of Siberia’s 
largest industrial center, Novosibirsk, had stated: 

Don’t be amazed! We too are carrying out many experiments of this 
kind and they all point to one thing: plants have memory. They are able 
to gather impressions and retain them over long periods. We had a man 
molest, even torture, a geranium for several days in a row. He pinched 
• it, tore it, pricked its leaves with a needle, dripped acid on its living tissues, 
burned it with a lighted match, and cut its roots, Another man took 
tender care of the same geranium, watered it, worked its soil, sprayed it 
with fresh water, supported its heavy branches, and treated its burns and 
wounds. When we electroded our instruments to the plant, what do you 
think? No sooner did the torturer come near the plant than the recorder 
of the instrument began to go wild. The plant didn’t just get “nervous”; 
it was afraid, it was horrified. If it could have, it would have either thrown 
itself out the window or attacked its torturer. Hardly had this inquisitor 
. left and the good man taken his place near the plant than the geranium 
was appeased, its impulses died down, the recorder traced out smooth— 
one might almost say tender—lines on the graph. 

In addition to a plant’s ability to recognize friend and foe, Soviet 
researchers also noted that one plant supplied with water can somehow 
share it with a deprived neighbor. In one institute of research a cornstalk 
planted in a glass container was denied water for several weeks. Yet it 
did not die; it remained as healthy as other cornstalks planted in normal 
conditions nearby. In some way, say Soviet botanists, water was trans¬ 
ferred from healthy plants to the “prisoner” in the jar. Yet they have 
no idea how this was accomplished. 

As fantastic as this may seem, a kind of plant-to-plant transfer has 
^cn taking place in England in experiments begun in 1972 by Dr. 
A. R. Bailey. Two plants in an artificially lit greenhouse in which temper- 
j re, humidity, and light were carefully controlled w r ere suffering from 
ck of water. Bailey and his collaborator measured the voltages gene- 
j*d®d between two parts of both plants. When one plant was watered 
m outside through plastic tubes, the other plant reacted. As Bailey 


Latest Soviet Discoveries 73 

told the British Society of Dowsers: “There was no electrical connection 
between them, no physical connection whatsoever, but somehow o ne 
plant picked up what was going on with the other.” 

Soloukhin, in his book Grass, the title of which conveys, as with Carl 
Sandburg, Walt Whitman, or Pete Seeger, the most extended meaning 
of the word “grass,” or indeed everything growing, took to task the lack 
of sensitivity to the vegetal world around them on the part of the Soviet 
populace. Targets of his criticism included agricultural bureaucrats, indi- • 
vidual collective farmers, lumber executives, and even salesgirls in Mos- 

cow Bower shops. 

“Human observation,” writes Soloukhin ironically in the opening 

chapter of Grass, “is so precise that we begin to notice the very air we 
breathe only when it is insufficient for our needs. More exactly, I should 
say 'value’ rather than 'notice.’ We do not really value air, or even think 
about it, so long as we can breathe normally, without difficulty. He adds 
that, though man prides himself on his vast array of knowledge, he is 
like a radio technician who knows how to repair a receiver without 
understanding the theoretical essence of radio waves, or like our cave¬ 
men ancestors who put fire to use while unaware of the process of rapid 
, oxidation. Even today, says Soloukhin, we squander heat and light yet 
have not the slightest clue to, or interest in, their original essence. 

Man is equally callous, says Soloukhin, about the fact that the land 
around him is green. “We trample grasses into dirt, we strip the land 
with bulldozers and caterpillar treads, we cover it with concrete and hot 
asphalt. Disposing of wastes from our infernal industrial machines we 
dump upon it crude oil, rubbish, acids, alkalis, and other poisons. But 
is there that much grass? I, for one, can imagine man in a boundless, 
grassless wilderness, the product of a cosmic, or perhaps humanly non* 
cosmic, catastrophe.” 

Seeking to re-evoke wonder for nature in the hearts of an overurban 
ized Soviet youth, Soloukhin tells the story of a prisoner who, incar¬ 
cerated in a dank cell, finds among the pages of an old book, given hit*, 
by a kindly jailer, a tiny seed smaller than a pinhead. Overcome wi 
emotion at the first visible sign of real life he has seen for years, t 
prisoner imagines that the microscopic seed is all that remains from t 


former luxuriant and festive plant kingdom in the great world outside 
the prison. Planting the seed in a bit of earth in the sole corner of the 
cell afforded a ray of sunlight, and watering it with his tears, the prisoner 
^aits for a wonder to unfold. 

Soloukhin accepts this wonder as a true miracle ignored by man only 
because it is repeated thousands of billions of times daily. Even if all the 
world’s chemical and physical laboratories with their complex reagents, 
precise analyses, and electronic microscopes were placed at the priso¬ 
ner's disposal, he continues, even if the prisoner studied the seed’s every 
cell, atom, and atomic nucleus, he still would not be able to read the 
mysterious program lying within the seed, to lift the impenetrable veil 
which could cause it to transform itself into a juicy carrot, a branch of 
sweet-scented dill, or a radiant-colored aster. 

Soloukhin was fascinated with the statement by I. Zabelin, doctor of 
geographical sciences and Moscow University professor, who in his 
article "Dangerous Delusions” in one of the USSR’s leading opinion 
forums, Literatumaya Gazette, wrote: “We are only beginning to com¬ 
prehend the language of nature, its soul, its reason. The 'inner world’ 
of plants is hidden from our gaze behind seventy-seven seals.” Though 
these lines were in no way emphasized in the printed column, says 
Soloukhin, “they appeared to me as bold-face type.” 

During a trip to Paris, Soloukhin was happy to observe florist shops 
pattered in all, and even the poorest, districts of the French capital. 
Finding a decent bouquet of flowers in the Soviet capital, he says, can 
become the object of a day-long search. 

Soloukhin has recently attacked the obtuse views of Soviet agricultural 
officials. Writing in the October, 1972, issue of Literatumaya Gazette, 
he deplores the abandon with which generations-old natural Russian 
uieadowlands have been allowed to deteriorate while fields needed for 
°weal crops are being plowed and planted to grasses for animal fodder. 

We could cover Europe with hay and green grass from our meadows 
^d build a haystack extending from the Mediterranean to Scan¬ 
dinavia,” writes Soloukhin. “Well, why don't we?” His rhetorical ques- 
only provoked an angry rebuttal from the USSR’s Deputy Minister 
^ Agriculture, who insisted on upholding the status quo. 

Latest Soviet Discoveries 75 




In a battle similar to that taking place in the United States and other 
countries, Soloukhin is unremittingly denouncing unecologically 
minded industrialists in his country, who are turning the rivers and lakes 
into cesspools, and despoiling its forests, all in the name of increased 
production. Seeking to reverse a half century of Communist dicta, this 
“passionate lover of nature, its defender and bard”—to quote one of 
Soloukhin’s publishers—exhorts his countrymen to cooperate with, 
rather than subdue, nature. 

That the Soviets are bent on introducing the idea of substituting for 
the burning of coal, oil, and natural gas—three forms of preserved solar 
energy originally captured by plants—new, more direct, and pollution- 
free ways to tap the sun was revealed by an article in the first 1973 issue 
of Khimiya i Zhizn (Chemistry and Life). The article pointed to the 
research of the American Nobel Prize winner Melvin Calvin in photo¬ 
synthesis, wherein he discovered that plant chlorophyll under the influ¬ 
ence of the sun’s rays can give up electrons to a semiconductor such as 
zinc oxide. Melvin and his co-workers created a “green photoelement, n 
which produced a current of approximately 0.1 microamperes per square 
centimeter. After several minutes, said the Soviet magazine, the plant 
chlorophyll becomes desensitized or “exhausted/ but its life could be 
extended by the addition of hydroquinone to the salt solution which acts 
as an electrolyte. The chlorophyll seems to act as a kind of electron 
pump passing electrons from the hydroquinone to the semiconductor. 

Calvin has calculated that a chlorophyll photoelement with an area 
of ten square meters could yield a kilowatt of power. He has theorized 
that in the next quarter century such photoelements could be manufac¬ 
tured on an industrial scale and would be a hundred times cheaper than 
silicone solar batteries now being experimented with. 

Even if the direct conversion of sunlight into energy via plant chloro¬ 
phyll is not realized by the year 2000, says Chemistry and Life, i! 
wouldn’t put too much of a burden on man to wait a few decades longer 
when he considers the millions of years it took to convert plants into 

As Soviet readers were being offered the notion that plants could one 
day directly produce energy for man’s needs from the sun, Professor 
Gunar, together with an increasing number of young Soviet scientists, 


[ »as continuing to probe the awareness of plants to determine, for 

f instance, how their reactions may serve as an index of frost, cold, and 

j)£at resistance in varieties of barley and cucumbers and of disease 
potentials in potatoes. 

A clue to where Professor Gunar got the original inspiration to launch 
his series of detailed and ongoing studies on plants, which were to have 
such repercussions throughout the Soviet republics, is to be found in an 
article published in 1958 by A. M. Sinyukhin. This colleague of Gunar’s 
refers to an outstanding Indian physiologist and biophysicist whose work 
was buried during his lifetime by Western science and hardly ever cited 
since his death. As early as 1920 Kliment Arkadievich Timiryazev, in 
whose honor the Moscow Agricultural Academy is named, heralded this 
work as introducing a new epoch in the development of world science. 
This unheralded genius, wrote Timiryazev, developed an apparatus, 
startling in its simplicity and sensitivity, to counter the entrenched idea 
of the German botanists that communication in plant tissue was simply 
hydrostatic. In so doing, he was able to measure in hundredths of a 

second the time needed for a signal to travel along the stems of various 

Sinyukhin made clear that the USSR’s plant men were so impressed 
by the achievements of this Indian scientist that they were going to 
mount a research campaign based directly upon his long-ignored conclu¬ 
sions. In December, 1958, a pontifical meeting was held in the main 
conference hall of the USSR Academy of Sciences in celebration of the 
hundredth anniversary of the Indian sage’s birth. Three leading 
academicians summed up for the huge crowd assembled the fantastic 
breakthroughs which the Indian had made not only in plant physiology 

ut in physics and in the vital and up to then unheard-of links between 
fhese distinct disciplines. 

Many years, during the course of which whirlwind developments 
ve taken place in biophysics,’’ said A. V. Lebedinskii, one of the 
^ ing Russian pioneers in radiobiology and space medicine, “separate 

hv/ r ° m ^ me *^ s Indian’s work appeared. But, reading his works 

ay, one still senses in them an unexpected and fruitful source of a 
^ °Ic chain of ideas in contemporary science.” 

n great work, said another speaker, “The green world of plants, 

Latest Soviet Discoveries 77 

seeming to us so immobile and insensitive, came miraculously to Life and 
appeared no less, and often even more, sensitive than animals andl man. 

Six years later the Soviet Union honored this neglected scientist by 
publishing in two handsomely illustrated volumes his selected works, 
together with copious commentaries including one entire book; which 
had first made its appearance over half a century before, in 1902: Re¬ 
sponse in the Living and Non-Living. In these works Sir Jagadis Chandra 
Bose managed to accomplish the essential requirement of the twentieth 
century: an amalgamation of the wisdom of the ancient East wdth the 
precise scientific techniques and language of the modern West. 






On the eastern coast of the subcontinent of India, in the old state of 
Bengal, there stands on four acres of ground off the Acharya Prafulla- 
chandra Road, north of Calcutta University, a complex of buildings 
made of fine grayish and purple sandstone in the classical design of 
Pre-Mohammedan India. The main edifice, known as the Indian Tem¬ 
ple of Science, bears an inscription: “This temple is dedicated to the feet 
God for bringing honor to India and happiness to the world.” 

Just inside the entrance are glass cases containing a series of intriguing 


instruments devised more than fifty years ago to measure the growth and 
Behavior of plants, down to their minutest detail, by magnification of 

these processes up to 100 million times. The instruments stand in their 
cases, in mute testimony to the genius of a great Bengali scientist whose 
work united in one man the fields of physics, physiology, and psychology 
and who found out more about plants than anyone before and perhaps 
after him, but who remains almost unmentioned in classical histories of 
subjects in which he specialized. 

The buildings and their gardens are the Institute of Research built 
by Sir fagadis Chandra Bose, of whose work in the field of plant physi¬ 
ology the Encyclopaedia Britannica could only say, nearly half a century 
after his death, that it was so much in advance of his time it could not 
be precisely evaluated. 

When Bose was still a child, his father had already painfully discerned 
in 1852 the main impact of the British education system on Indian 
children: the imposition of a slavish and monotonous imitation of all 
things Western and the requirement to learn by rote. The senior Bose, 
therefore, sent his son to a simple village pathasala rather than a colonial 
primary school. 

At the age of four the boy was carried to his classroom on the 
shoulders of a reformed gang robber, or dacoit, who could find employ¬ 
ment after a long jail term with no one but Bose's father. From this 
v dacoit the boy absorbed stories of savage battles and adventurous es¬ 
capades, but was also exposed to the natural goodness of a man who had 
been befriended after being rejected by society as a criminal. “No 
nurse,” Bose wrote in his later life, “could have been kinder than this 
leader of lawless men. Though he scoffed at the juridical strictures of 
society, he had the deepest veneration for natural moral law.” 

Bose's early contacts with the peasantry also were crucial to his own 
appreciation of the world. Much later he told an academic gathering: 
“It was from those who till the ground and make the land blossom with 
green verdure, from the sons of fisher-folk who told stories of the strange 
creatures that frequented the depths of mighty rivers and of stagnant 
pools, that I first derived a lesson of that which constituted true man¬ 
hood. From them, too, I drew my love of nature.” 

When Bose graduated from St. Xavier's College, his brilliant teachef 
Father Lafont was so impressed by the young man’s aptitude in physic 


jfid mathematics that he wanted him to go to England and read for the 
0vil Service examinations. Bose's father, who had personally ex¬ 
perienced the deadening nature of that profession, advised his son to 
become, not an administrator, but a scholar, with the prospect of ruling 
ifcbody but himself. 

At Christ College Bose was taught physics, chemistry, and botanical 
sciences by such luminaries as Lord Rayleigh, discoverer of argon in the 
air, and Francis Darwin, son of the evolutionary theorist. Having passed 
his tripos examinations, Bose went on to take a bachelor's degree in 
science the following year at London University. But when Bose was 
appointed professor of physics at Calcutta’s Presidency College, reput¬ 
edly the best in India, the appointment was protested by the college’s 
principal and by the director of Bengal’s public instruction, who main¬ 
tained the all too usual view that no Indian was competent to teach 

To get back at Bose for being recommended over their heads by a 
letter from the Postmaster General to the Viceroy, they offered him a 
special appointment at a salary only half that of the English professors, 
and gave him no facilities to carry on research. In protest Bose refused 
to touch his monthly salary check for three years, which obliged him to 
live in bitter deprivation, the more so as his father had fallen heavily into 


That Bose was brilliant as a teacher was attested by the fact that no 
roll call had to be instituted in his classroom, which was always packed 
to the walls. Bowing to his obvious talents, the authorities who had 
snubbed him finally gave him a position at full pay. 

Although Bose had no resources other than his own salary, a twenty- 
Kfuare-foot room to serve as a laboratory, and an illiterate tinsmith 
whom he trained as his mechanic, he began work in 1894 to see if he 
Md improve the instruments recently devised by Heinrich Rudolph 
Hertz to transmit “Hertzian” or radio waves through the air. Hertz, who 
that same year at the premature age of thirty-seven, had startled 
o World of physics by fulfilling in his laboratory the prediction of the 
sottish physicist James Clerk Maxwell, nearly twenty years before, that 

Waves of any electrical disturbance in the ether”—the variety and 

Plant Life Magnified 100 Million Times 83 

scope of which was far from known—would, like those of visible ligU 
be reflective, refractible, and polarizable. 

While Marconi in Bologna was still trying to transmit electric signal* 
through space without wires, a race he was to win officially against 
similar efforts by Lodge in England, Muirhead in the United States, and 
Popov in Russia, Bose had already succeeded. In 1895, the year befo re 
Marconi’s patent was issued, at a meeting in the Calcutta town hall 
presided over by Sir Alexander Mackenzie, the lieutenant-governor of 
Bengal, Bose transmitted electric waves from the lecture hall through 
three intervening walls—and Mackenzie’s portly body—to a room sev¬ 
enty-five feet away, where they tripped a relay which threw a heavy iron 
ball, fired off a pistol, and blew up a small mine. 

Bose's accomplishments now began to attract the attention of the 
British Royal Society (equivalent of the academy of sciences in other 
countries), which, at Lord Rayleigh's behest, invited Bose to publish a 
paper in its proceedings on the "Determination of the Wave Length of 
Electric Radiation,” and offered him a subsidy from its parliamentary 
grant for the advancement of science. This was followed by Bose’s being 
awarded a doctorate of science by London University. 

The Electrician, leading journal in its field, came forward to suggest 
that, on the basis of Bose’s work, it might now become practical to place 
electromagnetic transmitters in lighthouses and receivers on ships to 
offer mariners a "third eye” capable of penetrating fog. 

In England Bose gave a lecture on his apparatus for investigating 
electromagnetic waves before a meeting of the British Association for 
the Advancement of Science in Liverpool, which so impressed Lord 
Kelvin that he limped up to the ladies’ gallery to congratulate Bose’s 
beautiful wife in the most glowing terms on her husband’s brilliant work. 
This triumph was followed in January, 1897, by an invitation to address 
the Royal Institution at one of its Friday Evening Discourses, which, 
since the institute’s establishment, had become the principal venue for 
announcements of fresh and momentous investigations and discoveries. 

Of Bose’s address the Times wrote: "The originality of the achieve¬ 
ment is enhanced by the fact that Dr. Bose had to do the work in 
addition to his incessant duties and with apparatus and appliances which 


jfo this country would be deemed altogether inadequate.” The Spectator, 
echoing this accolade, announced: There is something of rare interest 
in the spectacle of a Bengali of the purest descent lecturing in London 
to an audience of appreciative European savants upon one of the most 
.recondite branches of modern physical science.” 
r ■ Back in India, Bose was buoyed to find that a communication signed 
by Lord Lister, president of the Royal Society, and by other scientific 
luminaries, had been sent to the Secretary of State for India, recom¬ 
mending that a center for research and advanced teaching in physics 

‘ worthy of that great Empire” be established under Bose’s direction at 
Presidency College. 

Despite this recommendation, and an immediate grant by the Im¬ 
perial Government of £40,000 to set up the center forthwith, mean- 
minded, jealous functionaries in the Bengal Education Department 
succeeded in so tying up the project that it never came to fruition. Only 
the gesture of his fellow Bengali, the poet Rabindranath Tagore, later 
to win the Nobel Prize for literature, alleviated Bose's disappointment: 
Tagore came specially to greet him and not finding him at home left 
a huge magnolia blossom in token of his tribute. 

Doggedly pursuing his research whenever the press of his teaching 
duties in the backbiting climate of the college offered him a spare 
moment, Bose published in 1898 four papers on the behavior of electric 
waves, in the Proceedings of the Royal Society and in Great Britain's 
foremost popular scientific journal, Nature. 

In 1899 Bose noticed the strange fact that his metallic coherer for 
receiving radio waves became less sensitive if continuously used but 
returned to normal after a period of rest. This led him to the conclusion 
that metals, however inconceivably, might exhibit a recovery from fa¬ 
tigue similar to that which took place in tired animals and people. 
Further work began to convince Bose that the boundary line between 
«>-called "nonliving” metals and “living” organisms was tenuous indeed. 
Spontaneously moving from the domain of physics into that of physi- 
j > °gy, Bose began a comparative study of the curves of molecular reac- 
h °n in inorganic substance and those in living animal tissue. 

To his awe and surprise, the curves produced by slightly warmed 

Plant Life Magnified 100 Million Times 85 

magnetic oxide of iron showed striking resemblance to those of muscles 
In both, response and recovery diminished with exertion, and the conse. 
quent fatigue could be removed by gentle massage or by exposure to a 
bath of warm water. Other metal components reacted in animal-ij^ 
ways. A metal surface etched with acid when polished to remove all trace 
of the etching exhibited reactions in its acid-treated sections which 
could not be elicited in those nontreated. Bose ascribed to the affected 
sections some kind of lingering memory of the treatment. In potassium 
he found that the power of recovery was almost totally lost if it was 
treated with various foreign substances; this seemed to parallel the 
reactions of muscular tissue to poisons. 

In a presentation to the International Congress of Physics, held in 
1900 at the Paris Exhibition, entitled “De la Generalite des Pheno- 
menes Moleculaires Produits par l’Electricite sur la Matiere Inorganique 
et sur la Matiere Vivante,” Bose stressed the “fundamental unity among 
the apparent diversity of nature,” concluding that “it is difficult to draw 
a line and say that here the physical phenomenon ends and here the 
physiological begins.” The congress was “bouleverse” by Bose’s earth- 
shaking suggestion that the gulf between the animate and inanimate 
might not be as broad and unspannable as generally believed; its secre¬ 
tary declared himself “stunned.” 

The enthusiasm of his fellow physicists was, however, not matched 
by the coterie of physiologists who were invited the following September 
to a meeting of the physics section of the British Association for the 
Advancement of Science at Bradford. Because Bose’s research over¬ 
lapped onto territory which they considered their private preserve, the 
physiologists listened with hostile silence while Bose read a paper con¬ 
tending that Hertzian waves could be used as a stimulating agent on 
tissues, and that metal response was analogous to that of tissues. To meet 
the physiologists on their ground, Bose meticulously adapted his experi¬ 
ments to an accepted “electromotive variation” to which they were 
accustomed, and again got similar curves of muscles and metals respond¬ 
ing to the effects of fatigue or of stimulating, depressing, and poisoning 

Shortly thereafter it dawned on Bose that if the striking continuity 
between such extremes as metals and animal life were real he should also 

|je able to get similar effects in ordinary vegetable plants, which, because 
they were held to have no nervous systems, were universally reckoned 
js unresponsive. Picking several horse-chestnut leaves from a tree in the 
garden next to his lab, Bose found that they responded to various 
“blows” in much the same way as had his metals and muscles. Excited 
by the results, he betook himself to his greengrocer and purchased a bag 
of carrots and turnips, which, of all vegetables, appeared the most 
stolidly nonsentient, and found them to be highly sensitive. When he 
chloroformed plants, Bose discovered that they were as successfully 
anesthetized as animals, and that when the narcotic vapor was blown 
away by fresh air like animals they revived. Using chloroform to tranquil- 
ize a huge pine tree, Bose was able to uproot it and transplant it without 
the usually fatal shock of such operations. 

When Sir Michael Foster, secretary of the Royal Society, came to 
Bose’s laboratory one morning to see for himself what was happening 
and Bose showed the Cambridge veteran some of his recordings, the 
older man said jocularly: “Come now, Bose, what is the novelty of this 
curve? We have known it for at least half a century!” 

“But what do you think it is?” Bose persisted quietly. 

“Why, a curve of muscle response, of course!” said Foster testily. 
Looking at the professor from the depths of his haunting brown eyes, 
Bose said firmly: “Pardon me, but it is the response of metallic tin!” 

Foster was aghast. “What?” he shouted, jumping from his chair, 
“Tin? Did you say tin?” 

When Bose showed him all his results, Foster was as thrilled as he was 
astounded. On the spot, he invited Bose to give an account of his 
discoveries at another Friday Evening Discourse at the Royal Institution 
and offered to communicate his paper personally to the Royal Society 
m order to secure his priority. At the evening meeting of May 10,1901, 
Bose marshaled all the results obtained over four years and demonstrated 
eac h one of them with a comprehensive series of experiments before 
e nding with a peroration: 

I have shown you this evening autographic records of the history of 
stress and strain in the living and non-living. How similar are the writings! 

So similar indeed that you cannot tell one apart from the other. Among 
such phenomena, how can we draw a line of demarcation and say, here 


Plant Life Magnified 100 Million Times 87 

the physical ends, and there the physiological begins? Such absolute 
barriers do not exist. 

It was when I came upon the mute witness of these self-made records, 
and perceived in them one phase of a pervading unity that bears within 
it all things—the mote that quivers in ripples of light, the teeming life 
upon our earth, and the radiant suns that shine above us—it was then that 
I understood for the first time a little of that message proclaimed by my 
ancestors on the banks of the Ganges thirty centuries ago: “They who see 
but one, in all the changing manifoldness of this universe, unto them 
belongs Eternal Truth—unto none else, unto none else!” 

Bose’s lecture was warmly received and to his surprise his views went 
unchallenged, despite the metaphysical note at its end. Sir William 
Crookes even urged that the last quotation not be omitted when the 
address was published. Sir Robert Austen, one of the world’s authorities 
on metals, praised Bose for his faultless arguments, saying, “I have all 
my life studied the properties of metals and am happy to think that they 
have life.” He confessed confidentially that he had formed a similar 
opinion but had been rebuffed when he had once hesitantly hinted at 
it before the Royal Institution. 

A month later, when Bose repeated his lecture and demonstrations 
before the Royal Society, he received an unexpected blow from “the 
grand old man of physiological science in England,” Sir John Burdon- 
Sanderson, whose principal work had been a study of muscle behavior 
and the movements of the Venus’s flytrap to which Darwin had first 
called his attention. As Burdon-Sanderson was the authority on electro¬ 
physiology, all turned to him to open the discussion which followed 
Bose’s speech. 

Burdon-Sanderson began by complimenting Bose on his acknowl¬ 
edged work in physics but followed with the remark that it was “a great 
pity” that he had wandered from his own field of study to areas which 
belonged properly to the physiologist. Since Bose's paper was still under 
consideration for publication he suggested that its title be changed from 
‘Electrical Response in . . .” to "Certain Physical Reactions in . . ■ >" 
thus leaving to the physiologists the term “response” with which physi¬ 
cists should not be concerned. As for the electrical responses of ordinary 
plants, which Bose had described at the end of his address, Burdon- 


Sanderson denied categorically that such were possible, since “he him- 
se lf had tried for many years past to obtain them and had never suc¬ 

In his reply Bose said candidly he understood that the facts experi¬ 
mentally demonstrated were not questioned by his critic. If, therefore, 
he was not being impugned on the basis of this evidence, but was being 
asked to make modifications which altered the whole purpose and mean¬ 
ing of his presentation, on the basis of authority alone, he would have 
to decline. It seemed to Bose inexplicable, he said, that any doctrine 
could be advocated before the Royal Society which suggested that 
knowledge could not advance beyond known bounds. Unless he was 
shown on scientific grounds where his experiments were faulty or defec¬ 
tive, he would insist his paper be published as he had written it. At the 
end of his rebuttal, when no one rose to break the icy silence which hung 
over the hall, the meeting was adjourned. 

Because of doubt thrown on his work by so eminent an expert as 
Burdon-Sanderson, and to put down a younger man who had so outspok¬ 
enly challenged his senior, the society voted not to follow up Bose’s 
“preliminary notice” with the full publication of his paper in its Proceed¬ 
ings, and instead buried it in its archives, a fate which had befallen other 
notable papers in the past. To Bose, who all his life had listened to 
Britishers lecture against the evils of the Indian caste system, the vote 
seemed to evidence the existence of a not dissimilar system within 
British science itself. At the institution's laboratories, Bose was consoled 
by Lord Rayleigh, who told him that he too had been subjected to 
ceaseless attacks from chemists because, as a physicist, he had had the 
temerity to predict that a hitherto unsuspected new element would be 
found in air, a prediction shortly to be verified by his discovery, with the 
help of Sir William Ramsay, of argon. 

The controversy with the physiologists elicited the interest of Bose’s 
former teacher Professor Sidney Howard Vines, the well-known botanist 
and vegetable physiologist at Oxford, who called on Bose and asked if 
he could witness Bose’s experiments. Vines brought with him T. K. 
Howes, who had succeeded T. H. Huxley at the British Museum’s 
department of Botany at South Kensington. When the men saw Bose’s 

Plant Life Magnified 100 Million Times 89 

plant respond to stimulus, Howes exclaimed: “Huxley would have giv e „ 
years of his life to see this experiment.” As secretary of the Linnean 
Society, he told Bose that, since his paper had been refused for publica¬ 
tion by the Royal Society, not only would the Linnean accept it but also 
he would invite Bose to repeat all his experiments before the physiolo- 
gists, particularly his opponents.* 

As a result of this new presentation to the Linnean Society, on 
February 21,1902, Bose was able to write to his friend Tagore: “Victory! 
1 stood there alone, ready for hosts of opponents, but in fifteen minutes 
the hall was resounding with applause. After the paper, Professor Howes 
told me that as he saw each experiment, he tried to get out of it by 
thinking of a loophole of explanation, but my next experiment closed 
that hole.” The president of the Linnean Society wrote Bose a few days 
later: “It seems to me that your experiments make it clear beyond doubt 
that all parts of plants—not merely those which are known to be motile 
—are irritable, and manifest their irritability by an electrical response 
to stimulation. This is an important step in advance, and will, I hope, 
be the starting point for further researches to elucidate what is the 
nature of the molecular condition which constitutes irritability, and the 
nature of the molecular change induced by a stimulus. This would 
doubtless lead to some important generalities as to the properties of 
matter, not only living matter, but non-living matter as well.” 

Since ordinary plants and their different organs exhibited electrical 
response indicative of excitation under mechanical and other stimuli, it 
puzzled Bose that they gave no sign of this excitement by visible move¬ 
ment. Unlike the mimosa leaf, which, if irritated, abruptly collapses, 
owing to a contraction of its cushion-shaped base, or pulvinus, other 
plants seem, at least to the eye, placidly unconcerned when scraped, 
burned, or otherwise interfered with. Back home in Calcutta, it suddenly 
hit Bose that the contraction in the mimosa was magnified by its long 
leaf stalk. To similarly magnify a suspected contraction in other plants, 

‘The Linnean Society, named after Carl von Linne or Linnaeus (1707-1778), the great 
Swedish botanist whose Genera Plantorum is considered the starting point of modem 
systematic botany, was organized at the end of the eighteenth century when Sir J- F 
Smith, its first president, acquired Linnaeus’ botanical library from his widow. 


he designed a special optical lever with which he was able to demon¬ 
strate visually that all the characteristics of the responses exhibited by 
animal tissues were also found in those of plants. 

Bose communicated the results of these new and extended investiga¬ 
tions in December, 1903, in a series of seven papers to the Royal Society, 
which immediately planned their publication the following year in its 
“Philosophical Transactions, a series reserved for only the most signifi¬ 
cant and momentous scientific findings. However, as the papers were 
being readied for the printer, underhanded intrigues and prejudicial 
insinuations, which had almost suppressed his Linnean Society offering, 
began anew and, with Bose unable to refute them from far-off India, 
won the day. 

Convinced by Bose’s opponents that his theories should not be offi¬ 
cially printed, and without waiting for his detailed records, the society 
changed its august mind and once again filed Bose’s papers in its ar¬ 
chives. To Bose this vacillation by the society only justified his decision, 
taken two years before, no longer to rely wholly upon the acceptance of 
others before presenting his astonishing discoveries to the world. “Al¬ 
though, as he put it, “I thought I was much too lazy to write books, 

I was forced into it.” To guarantee that the substance of the lectures 
he had given in London, Paris, and Berlin should receive the widest 
possible circulation, Bose completed a book-length account of all his 
experimentation up to the middle of 1902, which was published the 
same year under the title Response in the Living and Non-Living. 

Herbert Spencer, the great British synthetic philosopher, very much 
alive to the important scientific advances of his time, despite his entry 
at eighty-three into the last year of his life, personally acknowledged 
Bose s volume with the regret that it was too late for him to incorporate 
'ts data into his own massive Principles of Biology. Two years later, 
Professor Waller, one of Bose’s most adamant opponents, quietly in¬ 
erted into his new book, without even mentioning Bose’s name, the 
ngali s assertion that “any vegetable protoplasm gives electrical re¬ 

Bose then began to concentrate on determining how mechanical 
Movements in plants might be similar to those in animals and humans. 

Plant Life Magnified 100 Million Times 91 

Since he knew that in plants there was respiration without gills or lungs 
digestion without a stomach, and movements without muscles, j( 
seemed plausible to Bose that there could be the same kind of excitation 
as in higher animals but without a complicated nervous system. 

Bose concluded that the only way to find out about the “unseen 
changes which take place in plants” and tell if they were “excited or 
depressed” would be to measure visually their responses to what he 
called “definite testing blows” or shocks. “In order to succeed in this ” 
he wrote, “we have to discover some compulsive force which will make 
the plant give an answering signal. Secondly, we have to supply the 
means for an automatic conversion of these signals into an intelligent 
script. And, last of all, we have ourselves to learn the nature of these 
hieroglyphics.” In this single statement Bose mapped out for himself a 
course for the next two decades. 

He first began by improving his optical lever into an optical pulse 
recorder. Consisting of a pair of drums over which revolved a continuous 
paper band driven by clockwork, this device picked up movements in 
the plant which were translated through a movable lever attached to a 
set of mirrors which reflected a beam of light onto the paper. The 
excursion of the shifting spot of light, followed by means of a sliding 
inkwell with an ink sponge protruding from it, made visible for the first 
time movements in plant organs which had thus far remained hidden 
to the scientific world. 

With the aid of this instrument, Bose was able to show how the skins 
of lizards, tortoises, and frogs as well as those of grapes, tomatoes, and 
other fruits and vegetables behaved similarly. He found that the vegetal 
digestive organs in insectivorous plants, from the tentacle of a sundew 
to the hair-lined flap of a pitcher plant, were analogous to animal stom¬ 
achs. He discovered close parallels between the response to light in 
leaves and in the retinas of animal eyes. With his magnifier he proved 
that plants become as fatigued by continuous stimulation as animal 
muscles, whether they were hypersensitive mimosas or undemonstrative 

Working with the Desmodium gyrans, a species whose continuously 
oscillating leaves recall the motion of semaphore flags and led to its 


common appellation, telegraph plant, Bose found that the poison which 
could stop its automatic ceaseless pulsation would also stop an animal 
heart and that the antidote for this poison could bring both organisms 
back to life. 

Bose demonstrated the characteristics of a nerve system in mimosa, 
a plant whose leaflets are symmetrically arranged on each leaf with 
several leaves stemming from more or less the same point, the whole leaf 
system borne on small branchlets or petioles issuing from the main stem. 

When Bose electrically shocked the stem or touched it with a hot 
wire, the base of the nearest petiole collapsed within seconds, to be 
followed, after another interval, by the folding of the leaves at its end. 
Connecting a galvanometer to the petiole, Bose recorded an electrical 
disturbance between these two points of reaction. If he Louched the tip 
of a leaf with a hot object, first the leaflets closed and then the base 
segment drooped. 

Bose interpreted these actions as due to electrical excitation, which, 
in turn, produced mechanical responses; this was also what happened in 
the animal nerve-muscle unit, where the nerve carried the electric im¬ 
pulse and the muscle contracted in response. Bose later proved that 
identical results could be produced in both plant and animal systems by 
cold, anesthesia, or the passage of a weak current. 

Bose showed that in mimosa there exists the same kind of “reflex arc” 
which causes us to withdraw our fingers instantly from a hot stove before 
pain can be felt. When Bose touched the tip of one leaf on a three-leaf 
petiole he saw that the leaflets of the disturbed leaf gradually closed, 
starting from the tip; then the petiole collapsed; lastly, the other two 
leaves closed from the base upward. 

In Desmodium gyrans, or the telegraph plant, Bose found that if the 
eut end of a detached leaflet was dipped in water in a bent glass tube 
>t recovered from the shock of its amputation and began to pulsate anew. 
Vas this not like an excised animal heart which can be kept beating in 
Anger’s solution? Just as the heart stops beating when blood pressure 
is owered and starts again when pressure is raised, Bose found the same 

Was ^ rue ^ or ^ pulsation of the Desmodium when the sap pressure was 
'ncreased or decreased. 

Plant Life Magnified 100 Million Times 93 

Bose experimented with heat and cold to ascertain the optimal condi¬ 
tions under which plant movement was best elicited. One day he found 
that when all motion stopped in his plant, it suddenly shuddered m a 
way reminiscent of the death spasm in animals. To determine exactly 
the critical temperature at which death occurred, he invented a moro- 
graph, or death recorder. While many plants met their end at sixty 
degrees Centigrade, individual plants exhibited variations depending on 
their previous histories and ages. If their power of resistance was artifi¬ 
cially depressed by fatigue, or poison, the death spasm would take place 
with temperatures as low as twenty-three degrees Centigrade. At death, 
the plant threw off a huge electrical force. Five hundred green peas 
could develop five hundred volts, said Bose, enough to fulminate a cook 
but for the fact that peas are seldom connected in series. 

Though it had been thought that plants liked unlimited quantities of 
carbon dioxide, Bose found that too much of this gas could suffocate 
them, but that they could then be revived, just like animals, with oxygen. 
Like human beings, plants became intoxicated when given shots of 
whiskey or gin, swayed like any barroom drunkard, passed out, and 
eventually revived, with definite signs of a hangover. These findings 
together with hundreds of other data were published in two massive 

volumes in 1906 and 1907. 

Plant Response as a Means of Physiological Investigation ran to 781 
pages and detailed 315 separate experiments. These went against an 
entrenched notion, which Bose thus explained: “From the plausible 
analogy of the firing off of a gun by pulling a trigger, or the action of 
a combustion engine, it has been customary to suppose that all response 
to stimulus must be of the nature of an explosive chemical change, 
accompanied by an inevitable rundown of energy. Bose s experiments, 
on the contrary, showed him that in plants their movement, the ascent 
of their sap, and their growth were due to energy absorbed from their 
surroundings, which they could hold latent or store for future use. 

These revolutionary ideas, and especially the finding that plants ha 
nerves, were received with veiled hostility among botanists. The Botam 
cal Gazette commended Bose for a path-breaking achievement, but hel 
that his book was “not without errors into which the author has fallen 
by reason of some unfamiliarity with his materials. 


Even as the botanists grumbled, Bose sent to the printer a second, 
equally massive, volume, Comparative Electro-Physiology , setting forth 
521 additional experiments; its findings also clashed with current teach¬ 
ing and doctrine. Instead of emphasizing the accepted wide range of 
specific differences between the reactions of various plant and animal 
tissues, Bose consistently pointed to a real continuity between them. 
The nerve, universally held to be typically nonmotile, he showed capable 
of indisputable movement, which could more delicately be ascertained 
by mechanical than by electrical means. Whereas plants were consid¬ 
ered to lack all power of conducting true excitation, Bose showed they 
were in fact possessed of this power. 

Even more heretically, Bose held that the isolated vegetal nerve is 
indistinguishable from animal nerve: “So complete, indeed, has that 
Similarity between the responses of plant and animal, of which this is 
an instance, been found,” wrote Bose, “that the discovery of a given 
responsive characteristic in one case has proved a sure guide to its 
observation in the other, and that the explanation of a phenomenon, 
under the simpler conditions of the plant, has been found fully sufficient 
for its elucidation under the more complex circumstances of the ani¬ 

Going even further, Bose maintained that when electromotive inten¬ 
sity was above or below a certain range the law of polar effects of 
Currents, established by Pfliiger, was overturned; in addition, a nervous 
impulse, supposed to lie beyond any conceivable power of visual 
scrutiny, attended by a change of form, was entirely capable of direct 

The authoritative scientific magazine Nature, left gasping by both 
volumes, wrote of the first: “In fact, the whole book abounds in interest¬ 
ing matter skillfully woven together and would be recommended as of 
great value if it did not continually arouse our incredulity.” Of the 
second, Nature was equally ambivalent in its attitude. “The student of 
plant physiology,” said the reviewer, “who has some acquaintance with 
the main classical ideas of his subject, will feel at first extreme bewilder¬ 
ment as he peruses this book. It proceeds so smoothly and logically, and 
yet it does not start from any place in the existing ‘corpus* of knowledge, 
*nd never attaches itself with any firm adherence. This effect of detach- 

Plant Life Magnified 100 Million Times 95 

ment is heightened by the complete absence of precise reference to the 
work of other investigators.” There were, of course, no other investiga¬ 
tors; and the reviewer, limited by the compartmentalized science of his 
day, had no way of knowing he was dealing with a genius half a century 
ahead of his time. 

In a short statement Bose summed up lhis philosophy: “This vast 
abode of nature is built in many wings, each with its own portal. The 
physicist, the chemist and the biologist come in by different doors, each 
one his own department of knowledge, and each comes to think that this 
is his special domain unconnected with that of any other. Hence has 
arisen our present division of phenomena into the worlds of inorganic, 
vegetal and sentient. This philosophical attitude of mind may be denied. 
We must remember that all inquiries have as their goal the attainment 
of knowledge in its entirety.” 

One of the blocks to the acceptance by plant physiologists of Bose’s 
revolutionary findings was their inability to construct the delicate instru¬ 
ments he had devised. Yet the mounting opposition to his basic thesis 
that responses in plants are similar to those due to the nervous system 
of animals convinced Bose that he should develop an even more refined 
set of instruments for automatic stimulation and recording of response. 
He^therefore designed a resonant recorder, capable of measuring time 
up to 1/1000 of a second, to make rapid movement in plants apparent, 
and an oscillating recorder to reveal the slowest movement in plants. 

With the assistance of his new recorder Bose got results on the 
nervous impulse so convincing that this time they were published in the 
Royal Society's Philosophical Transactions. In the same year Bose pub¬ 
lished his third massive volume of experimentation, Researches in Irrita - 
bility of Plants; 376 pages; 180 experiments. 

In 1914, Bose left for Europe on a fourth scientific mission, this time 
carrying not only his various instruments but specimens of Mimosa 
pudica and Desmodium gyrans to illustrate his lectures. In England he 
demonstrated before audiences at Oxford and Cambridge how a plant 
touched on one side would shiver and react on the other. He addressed 
evening meetings of both the Royal Institution and the Royal Society 
of Medicine, where Sir Lauder Brunton, who had made experiments on 


■ f insectivorous plants for Charles Darwin in 1875, remarked that all the 
| subsequent physiological experimentation he had seen since then was 

crude in comparison with yours in which you show what a marvellous 
resemblance there is between the reactions of plants and animals.” 

/ The ve § etarian an d antivivisectionist George Bernard Shaw, having 
^witnessed in Bose’s laboratory, through one of Bose’s magnifiers, a cab¬ 
bage leaf going through violent paroxysms as it was scalded to death, 
i dedicated his own collected works to Bose, inscribing them: “Prom the 
^ least to the greatest living biologist.” A repentant animal physiologist 
* v who had cast the single vote preventing publication of plant research by 
; = the Royal Society came up to Bose to confess his misdeed and said, “I 
•could not believe that such things were possible and thought your 
Mental imagination had led you astray. Now, I fully confess that you 

have been right all along.” Bose, letting bygones be bygones, never 
f divulged his name. 

* Bose s research was for the first time vividly recorded for the public 
in the British publication Nation: 

M X' 

j In a room near Maida Vale there is an unfortunate carrot strapped to 

?- £ „ table ° f . an unlicensed vivisector. Wires pass through two glass tubes 

ull of a white substance; they are like two legs, whose feet are buried in 
the flesh of the carrot. When the vegetable is pinched with a pair of 
forceps, it winces. It is so strapped that its electric shudder of pain pulls 

' tbe ‘ ong arm a ver Y delicate level which actuates a tiny mirror. This 
r r casts a beam of light on the frieze at the other end of the room, and thus 
' ■ v ^ nor mously exaggerates the tremor of the carrot. A pinch near the right- 
. hand tube sends the beam seven or eight feet to the right, and a stab near 
, t e other wire sends it far to the left. Thus can science reveal the feelings 
of even so stolid a vegetable as the carrot, 

■ ( ij 

The acclaim which came in the British Isles was repeated in Vienna, 
'vhere it was the consensus of eminent German and Austrian scientists 
^ at Calcutta was far ahead of us in these new lines of investigation.” 

Back in India, where the governor of Bengal had arranged for a huge 
ijneeting, headed by the sheriff of Calcutta to greet him, Bose spoke of 
pursuit, under extreme difficulty, of his investigation of the extraor¬ 
dinary slowness of growth in plants. To conceive of this it is only 

Plant Life Magnified 100 Million Times 97 

necessary to state that if the annual growth of a tree is liberally estimated 
to be five feet, it would take one thousand years to cover a mile. 

In 1917, at a huge meeting of students held to honor the knighthood 
bestowed upon Bose, the chairman remarked that he should be looked 
upon not as a mere discoverer of scientific truths, but as a Yuga Pravar. 
tak, or one who has brought about a new epoch of synthesis in scientific 
development. This compliment was to Bose small music compared to 
the opening of his own Institute for Research on the thirtieth of Novem¬ 
ber, on the occasion of his fifty-ninth birthday. 

During his speech at the ceremony, Bose, who had declined to patent 
the device which could have made him, instead of Marconi, the inventor 
of wireless telegraphy, and had consistently resisted the blandishments 
of industrial representatives to turn his ideas into profits, stated that it 
was his particular desire that any discoveries made at his new institute 
would become public property and that no patents would ever be taken 
out on them. “Not in matter, but in thought, not in possessions, but in 
ideas, are to be found the seeds of immortality,” Bose told the assembled 
crowd. “Not through material acquisitions, but in generous diffusion of 
ideas can the true empire of humanity be established. Thus, the spirit 
of our national culture demands that we should forever be free from the 
desire of utilizing knowledge for personal gain.” 

A year after the foundation of the institute, Bose convened a meeting, 
sponsored by the governor of Bengal, to announce that, after eight years 
of struggle, he had finally been able to devise a brand-new instrument, 
the crescograph. Through the use of two levers, this extraordinary inven¬ 
tion not only produced a ten-thousand-fold magnification of movement, 
far beyond the powers of the strongest microscope, but could automati¬ 
cally record the rate of growth of plants and their changes in a period 
as short as a minute, 

With this instrument Bose showed the remarkable fact that in count¬ 
less plants, growth proceeds in rhythmic pulses, each pulse exhibiting a 
rapid uplift and then a slower partial recoil of about a fourth the distance 
gained. The pulses in Calcutta averaged about three per minute. By 
watching the progress of the movement on the chart of his new inven¬ 
tion, Bose found that growth in some plants could be retarded and even 


jilted by merely touching them, and that in others rough handling 
stimulated growth, especially if they were sluggish and morose. 

To determine a method which would allow him instantly to show the 
acceleration or retardation of a plant’s growth in response to a stimulant, 
gose now devised what he called a “balanced crescograph,” which would 
allow the plant to be lowered at the same rate at which it was growing 
upward, thus reducing the marking of its growth on the chart to a 
horizontal line and allowing any changes in the rate to express them¬ 
selves as curves. The method was so extremely sensitive that Bose was 
able to detect variation of the rate of growth as hyper-minimal as 1/1500 
millionths of an inch per second. 

In America, Scientific American, referring to the significance of 
Bose’s findings for agriculture, wrote: “What is the tale of Aladdin and 
his wonderful lamp compared to the possibilities of Dr. Bose’s Cresco¬ 
graph? In less than a quarter of an hour the action of fertilizers, food, 
electric currents and various stimulants can be fully determined.” 

Bose also elucidated the mysteries of tropistic movements in plants, 
or their tendency to move in response to an external stimulus. At the 
time of his research, botanists could no more explain these tropisms than 
could Moliere’s medical student who passed his exam by answering the 
question “Why does opium make one sleep?” with the tautology “Be¬ 
cause it has a dormitive virtue.” 

The roots of plants are called “geotropic,” because they burrow into 
the soil. Because their shoots flee the earth they are said to be imbued 
with “negative geotropism.” To heighten this nonsense, branches are 
said to start out laterally from the shoot by “diageotropism.” Leaves turn 
to light because they are “heliotropic” or “phototropic.” If, disobeying 
this rule, they turn away from light, then they are “negatively photo¬ 
tropic.” Roots questing water are described as “hydrotropic,” and those 
Bending against the flow of a stream “rheotropic.” The tendril’s touch 
'$ known as its “thigmotropism.” 

As the botanist Sir Patrick Geddes wrote: “Intellectual activities have 
their verbalisms, their confusions and misdirections and these may also 
Cumulate into what are practically diseases. Every science, of course, 
ne eds its technical terminology but all have suffered from the verbosity 

Plant Life Magnified 100 Million Times 99 


of nomenclatures and, notoriously, botanv most of all. Thus apart from 
the systematic names for each and every species and order which are of 
course indispensable—there are some fifteen or twenty thousand techni- 
cal terms in the botanical dictionaries of which many have survived into 
modern textbooks to the perplexity of the student. In an essay, com¬ 
menting on the strange power of big words like “heliotropism,” Bose 
said that they usually acted like some malevolent magic to kill curiosity. 

Though it was beginning to be finally accepted that plants did possess 
conducting tissue analogous to animal nerve, it was now urged by plant 
specialists that the sensibility of plants was, if it did in fact exist, of 3 
very low order. Bose demonstrated that this was not the case. 

He showed the tropism exhibited by tendrils to be the result of two 
fundamental reactions: a direct stimulus inducing contraction and an 
indirect stimulus causing expansion. In the curvature of the plant organ, 
the convex side was electrically positive, the concave side negative. Since 
the human organ most readily available and most sensitive to the percep¬ 
tion of electric current is the tip of the tongue, Bose decided to match 
its detective ability against that of the sensitive leaflet of the Biophytum 
plant. Hooking up a tongue and a leaflet, he passed a current through 
both organs, gradually increasing the amperage. When the current 
reached an intensity of 1.5 micro-amperes, or 1 1/2 millionths of the 
standard electrical unit of current, the leaflet shimmered in response but 
the overrated tongue had nothing to relate about the current until the 
intensity had been increased threefold. 

With the same instrumentation, Bose showed that plants of all kinds 
are sensitive. He found “a stoutish tree will give its response in a slow 
and lordly fashion whereas a thin one attains the acme of its excitement 

in an incredibly short time.” 

During Bose’s trip to London and Europe in 1919 and 1920, the 
distinguished scientist Professor John Arthur Thomson wrote in the 
New Statesman: “It is in accordance with the genius of India that the 
investigator should press further towards unity than we have yet hinte 
at, should seek to correlate responses and memory expression in th £ 
living with their analogs in organic matter, and should see in anticipation 
the lines of Physics and Physiology and of Psychology converging an 


meeting These are questionings of a prince of experimenters whom we 
ar e proud to welcome in our midst today.” 

The usually reserved Times wrote: “While we in England were still 
steeped in the rude empiricism of barbaric life, the subtle Easterner had 
swept the universe into a synthesis and had seen the one in all its 
changing manifestations.” But even those bold statements and the an¬ 
nouncement that Bose was to be made a fellow of the Royal Society, 
j n May, 1920, could not stem the all-too-familiar intimations of the 
doubters and pedants. Bose’s old adversary Professor Waller, upsetting 
the general atmosphere of cordiality and recognition, wrote to the Times 
to question the reliability of Bose’s magnetic crescograph and to ask for 
a demonstration of it in a physiological laboratory before experts. When 
the demonstration, which took place at London University on April 23, 
1920, was a complete success, Lord Rayleigh joined with several col¬ 
leagues in a letter to the Times stating: “We are satisfied that the growth 
of plant tissues is correctly recorded by this instrument and at magnifica¬ 
tion of one million to more than ten million times.” 

Bose wrote to the Times on May 5: 

Criticism which transgresses the limit of fairness must inevitably hinder 
the progress of knowledge. My special investigations have by their nature 
presented extraordinary difficulties. I regret to say that during a period of 
twenty years, these difficulties have been greatiy aggravated by misrepre¬ 
sentation and worse. The obstacles deliberately placed in my path I can 
now ignore and forget. If the result of my work, by upsetting any particu¬ 
lar theory, has aroused the hostility here and there of an individual, I can 
take comfort in the warm welcome which has been extended to me by 
the great body of scientific men in this country. 

During still another trip to Europe in 1923, the year that saw the 
Publication of Bose’s detailed 227-page work The Physiology of the 
Ascent of Sap, the French philosopher Henri Bergson said, after hearing 
Bose lecture at the Sorbonne: “The dumb plants had by Bose’s marvel¬ 
ous inventions been rendered the most eloquent witnesses of their hith- 
er to unexpressed life story. Nature has at last been forced to yield her 
’Oust jealously guarded secrets.” More Gallicly humorous, Le Matin 
stated: “After this discovery we begin to have misgivings, when we strike 

Plant Life Magnified 100 Million Times 101 

a woman with a blossom, which of them suffers more, the woman or the 

In 1924 and 1926 there appeared two more volumes of experiments 
totaling more than five hundred pages: The Physiology of Photosynthesif 
and The Nervous Mechanism of Plants. In 1926 Bose was nominated 
a member of the League of Nations Committee on Intercultural Coop, 
eration, along with a physicist, Albert Einstein, a mathematician, H. A. 
Lorentz, and a Greek literary scholar, Gilbert Murray. The assignment 
had the advantage of taking Bose to Europe annually. Still the Indian 
Government had to be jolted into awareness of the importance of Bose’s 
work. In 1926 Sir Charles Sherrington, president of the Royal Society, 
Lord Rayleigh, Sir Oliver Lodge, and Julian Huxley all signed a 
memorial to the Viceroy of India pleading for the expansion of the 

Back in Europe in 1927, the year which saw the appearance of his 
Plant Autographs and Their Revelations , Bose was presented by Romain 
Rolland with a signed copy of his new novel, Jean Christophe, inscribed 
“To the Revealer of a New World.” Later, comparing Bose to Siegfried, 
who had learned the language of birds, Rolland said: “In the European 
scientist the steeling of the mind to the interpretation of nature has 
pften been accompanied by a withering of the feeling for beauty. Dar¬ 
win bitterly lamented the fact that his research in biology had com¬ 
pletely atrophied his appreciation of poetry. With Bose it is otherwise.’’ 

In 1928, the same year that Bose brought out his last book, the 
429-page Motor Mechanisms of Plants, one of the greatest plant physi¬ 
ologists of modern times, Professor Hans Molisch of Vienna, decided, 
after hearing Bose lecture in the Austrian capital, to go to India and 
work with the Bengali. Before leaving the subcontinent he wrote to 
Nature: “I saw the plant writing down its rate of assimilation of gaseous 
food. I also observed the speed of the impulse of the excitement in plants 
being recorded by the resonant recorder. All these are more wonderful 
than fairytales.” 

All his life Bose had stressed to a scientific community steeped in a 
mechanistic and materialistic outlook, and increasingly divided and sub¬ 
divided into specialized cubbyholes, the idea that all of nature pulsed 

jyjth life and that each of the interrelated entities in the natural kingdom 
might reveal untold secrets could man but learn how to communicate 
^ith them. In the lecture hall of his institute, under a bronze, silver, and 
gpld relief of the Hindu sun god rising in his chariot for his daily cosmic 
fjght against the powers of darkness—which Bose had first seen depicted 
in an ancient cave fresco at Ajanta—Bose, now in retirement, summed 
u p his scientific philosophy. 

In my investigations on the action of forces on matter, I was amazed 
to find boundary lines vanishing and to discover points of contact emerg¬ 
ing between the Living and the non-Living. My first work in the region 
of invisible lights made me realize how in the midst of luminous ocean 
we stood almost blind. Just as in following light from visible to invisible 
our range of investigation transcends our physical sight, so also the prob¬ 
lem of the great mystery of Life and Death is brought a little nearer 
solution, when, in the realm of the Living, we pass from the Voiced to 
the Unvoiced. 

Is there any possible relation between our own life and that of the plant 
world? The question is not one of speculation but of actual demonstration 
by some method that is unimpeachable. This means that we should 
■ abandon all our preconceptions, most of which are afterward found to be 
absolutely groundless and contrary to facts. The final appeal must be 
made to the plant itself and no evidence should be accepted unless it bears 
the plant’s own signature. 


Plant Life Magnified 100 Million Times 103 

The Metamorphosis 

of Plants 

Why botany, a potentially fascinating subject dealing with plants, living 
and extinct, their uses, classification, anatomy, physiology, geographical 
distribution, should have been from the beginning reduced to a dull 
taxonomy, an endless Latin dirge, in which progress is measured more 
by the number of corpses cataloged than by the number of blossoms 
cherished, is perhaps the greatest mystery in the study of plant life- 
While young botanists still struggle today through the jungles of 
Central Africa and along the Amazon in search of polysyllabic victims 
to add to the 3 50,000 already on the books, what makes plants live, ° r 
why, does not appear to be the purview of the science, nor has it bee® 

ince the fourth century b.c. when Theophrastus, the Lesbian disciple 
yQ { Aristotle, first cataloged a couple of hundred species in his nine books 

. L t 

• On the History of Plants and six On the Causes of Plants. The Christian 
era merely raised the rolls to four hundred medicinal plants with the 
publication of De Materia Medica by a Greek physician to the Roman 
' army, Dioscorides, shortly after the Crucifixion, an event which put the 
quietus on the subject for another thousand years. Throughout the Dark 
Ages, the books of Theophrastus and Dioscorides remained the standard 
texts in botany. Even though the Renaissance brought aesthetics into 
the field, with lovely woodcuts in large herbals such as those of Hierony- 
tnus Bock, it could not rip botany from the rigorous grip of the taxono¬ 

: By 1583 a Florentine, Andreas Caesalpinus, had classified 1,520 
plants into fifteen classes, distinguished by seed and fruit. He was fol¬ 
lowed by the Frenchman Joseph Pitton de Tournefort, who described 
‘some 8,000 species of plants in twenty-two classes, chiefly according to 
the form of corolla—the colored petals of the flower. This brought sex 
into the picture. Although Herodotus had reported almost half a millen- 
'nium before Christ that the Babylonians distinguished two sorts of 
palms, and would sprinkle the pollen from one onto the flower of the 
other in order to secure the production of fruit, it was not till the end 
of the seventeenth century that it was realized that plants were sexual 
creatures with a flourishing sex life of their own. 

The first botanist to demonstrate that flowering plants have sex and 
r 4hat pollen is necessary for fertilization and seed formation was a Ger¬ 
man, Rudolf Jakob Camerarius, a professor of medicine and director of 
Tithe botanical gardens at Tubingen, who published his De Sexu Plan- 
Jfforum Epistula in 1694. The idea that there could be a sexual difference 
? in plants caused general astonishment, and Camerarius’ theory was 
ffiercely combated by the current establishment. It was considered ‘‘the 
jMdest and most singular invention that ever evolved from a poet’s 
Vtnind.” A heated controversy lasted almost a generation before it was 
^finally established that plants had sexual organs and could therefore be 
jf&levated to a higher sphere of creation. 

^ Even so, that plants have female organs in the form of vulva, vagina, 

The Metamorphosis of Plants 105 

uterus, and ovaries, serving precisely the same functions as they do in 
woman, as well as distinct male organs in the form of penis, glans, and 
testes, designed to sprinkle the air with billions of spermatozoa, were 
facts quickly covered by the eighteenth-century establishment with an 
almost impenetrable veil of Latin nomenclature, which stigmatized the 
labiate vulva, and mis-styled the vagina; the former being called 
“stigma,” the latter “style.” Penis and glans were equally disfigured into 
"filament” and “anther.” 

Whereas plants had been going through countless millennia of im¬ 
provement to their sexual organs, often in the face of staggering climatic 
changes, and had invented the most ingenious methods for fecundating 
each other and for spreading their fertile seed, students of botany, who 
might have delighted in the sexuality of plants, were frustrated by such 
terms as “stamens” for the male and “pistils” for the female organs. 
Schoolchildren might have been fascinated to learn that each com 
kernel on a cob in summer is a separate ovule, that each strand on the 
pubic corn silk tufted around the cob is an individual vagina ready to 
suck up the pollen sperm brought to it on the wind, that it may wriggle 
the entire length of the stylized vagina to impregnate each kernel on the 
cob, that every single seed produced on a plant is the result of a separate 
independent impregnation. Instead of struggling with archaic nomen¬ 
clature, teenagers might be interested to learn that each pollen grain 
impregnates but one womb, which contains but one seed, that a capsule 
of tobacco contains, on an average, 2,500 seeds, which require 2,500 
impregnations, all of which must be effected within a period of 24 hours 
in a space less than one-sixteenth of an inch in diameter. Instead of using 
the wonders of nature to stimulate the budding minds of their pupils, 
Victorian teachers misused the birds and the bees to denature their own 

How many universities even now draw the parallel between the her¬ 
maphroditic nature of plants, which bear both penis and vagina in the 
same body, with the “ancient wisdom” which relates that man is de¬ 
scended from an androgynous predecessor? The ingenuity of some 
plants in avoiding self-fertilization is uncanny. Some kinds of palm trees 
even bear staminate flowers one year and pistillate the next. Whereas 


in grasses and cereals cross-fertilization is insured by the action of the 
wind, most other plants are cross-fertilized by birds and insects. Like 
animals and women, flowers exude a powerful and seductive odor when 
ready for mating. This causes a multitude of bees, birds, and butterflies 
to join in a Saturnalian rite of fecundation. Flowers that remain unfertil¬ 
ized emit a strong fragrance for as many as eight days or until the flower 
withers and falls; yet once impregnated, the flower ceases to exude its 
fragrance, usually in less than half an hour. As in humans, sexual frustra¬ 
tion can gradually turn fragrance into fetor. Similarly, when a plant is 
ready for impregnation, there is an evolution of heat in the female organ. 
This was first noted by the celebrated French botanist Adolphe Theo¬ 
dore Brongniart in examining a flower of the Colocasia odorata, a 
tropical plant grown in greenhouses for the beauty of its foliage. This 
plant, at the time of flowering, presents an increase of temperature that 
Brongniart compared to an attack of fever, repeating the phenomenon 
for six days, daily from three to six in the afternoon. At the proper time 
for impregnation Brongniart found that a small thermometer fastened 
to the female organ marked a temperature eleven degrees Centigrade 
higher than any other part of the plant. 

The pollen of most plants has a highly inflammable character; when 
thrown on a red-hot surface it will ignite as quickly as gunpowder. 
Artificial lightning was formerly produced on the theatrical stage by 
throwing the pollen grains of the Lycopodium or club mosses onto a hot 
shovel. In many plants the pollen diffuses an odor bearing the most 
striking resemblance to the seminal emission of animals and man. Pol¬ 
len, which performs the same function in almost precisely the same 
manner as does the semen of animals and men, enters the folds of the 
plant vulva and traverses the whole length of the vagina, until it enters 
the ovary and comes in contact with the ovule. Pollen tubes elongate 
themselves by a most remarkable process. As with animals and humans, 
the sexuality of certain plants is guided by taste. The spermatozoa of 
certain mosses carried in the morning dew in search of females, is guided 
by its taste for malic acid toward the delicate cups at the bottom of 
which lie moss eggs to be fertilized. The spermatozoa of ferns, on the 
other hand, liking sugar, find their females in pools of sweetened water. 

The Metamorphosis of Plants 107 

Camerarius’ discovery of sex in plants set tfe stage for the generator 
of systematic botany, Carl von Linne, who dabbed the corolla petals 
“curtains of the nuptial bed.” A Swede, wha latinized his name to 
Linnaeus from a favorite linden tree while studying for the priesthood, 

he divided the plant world into species principally on the basis of 
variations in the male sexual organ or pollenoearing stamens of each 
plant. With his penchant for looking, Linnaeus recognized some six 
thousand different species of plants. His system, referred to as the 
“sexual system,” was considered “a great stimulus to students of 
botany.” But his monumental method of latinized classification turned 
out to be as sterile as that of any voyeur who only looks at bodies. Still 
in use today under the unwieldy title of “binomial nomenclature,” the 
system grants to each plant a Latin name for species and genus, to which 
is added the name of the person responsible for first naming it; thus the 
garden pea you eat with chops is the Pisum sativum Linnaeum. 

This mania for registration was but a hangover of scholasticism. As 
Raoul France, true lover of plants, described Linne’s efforts, “Wherever 
he went the laughing brook died, the glory of the flowers withered, the 
grace and joy of the meadows was transformed into withered corpses 
whose crushed and discolored bodies were described in a thousand 
minute Latin terms. The blooming fields and the storied woods disap¬ 
peared during a botanical hour into a dusty herbarium, into a dreary 
catalogue of Greek and Latin labels. It became the hour for the practice 
of tiresome dialectic, filled with discussions about the number of sta¬ 
mens, the shape of leaves, all of which we learnt only to forget. When 
the work was over we stood disenchanted and estranged from nature. 

To break away from this taxonomania, to put life and love and sex 
back into the plant world, took real poetic genius. In September of 1786, 
eight years after the death of Linnaeus, a tall, handsome man of thirty- 
seven, extremely attractive to women, who had been spending his holi¬ 
days at Karlsbad taking the waters and strolling with the ladies in the 
woods on long botanical expeditions, suddenly rebelled against the 
whole system. “Secretly and stealthily” he abandoned mistress and 
friends to go south toward the Alps. Incognito, with only his servant 
aware that they were heading for das Land wo die Citronen bluehen, 


the traveler, in real life privy councilor and director of mines for the 
Duchy of Saxe-Weimar, was delighted at the beauty and variety of the 
southern vegetation beyond the Brenner Pass. This secret trip to Italy, 
the culmination of years of longing, was to constitute a climax in the 
life of Germany's greatest poet, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. 

On his way to Venice he stopped to visit the botanical gardens of the 
University of Padua. Strolling among the luxuriant verdure, most of 
which grew only in hothouses in his native Germany, Goethe was 
overcome with a sudden poetic vision; it was to give him insight into 
the very nature of plants. It was also to give him a place in the history 
of science as the precursor of Darwin’s theory of organic development, 
an achievement as little appreciated by his compeers as it was extolled 
by a later generation. The great biologist Ernst Haeckel considered 
Goethe to stand with Jean Lamarck “at the head of all the great philoso¬ 
phers of nature who first established a theory of organic development, 
and who are the illustrious fellow workers of Darwin.” For years Goethe 
had been distressed by the limitations involved in a merely analytical and 
intellectual approach to the plant world, typified by the cataloging mind 
of the eighteenth century, and of a theory of physics, then triumphant, 
which submitted the world to blind laws of mechanics, to a “jeu de 
rouages et de ressorts sans vie. ” 

While still at the university in Leipzig, Goethe had rebelled against 
an arbitrary division of knowledge into faculties which cut up science 
into rival disciplines. In Goethe's nostrils university science had the 
stench of a corpse whose limbs have rotted apart. Disgusted at the petty 
contradictions of university savants, the young poet, whose early verses 
glowed with a passionate delight in nature, sought knowledge elsewhere, 
avidly studying galvanism and mesmerism and pursuing the electrical 
experiments of Winkler. Already as a child he had been fascinated by 
the phenomena of electricity and magnetism, struck by the extraordi¬ 
nary phenomenon of polarity. Cured in his late teens of a dangerous 
throat infection by a Rosicrucian doctor, Johann Friedrich Metz, Goe¬ 
the was suddenly overwhelmed by the urge to apprehend the tremen¬ 
dous secret displayed all around him in constant creation and annihila¬ 
tion; he was thus led to books on mysticism and alchemy in pursuit of 

The Metamorphosis of Plants 109 

the secret forces of nature. There he discovered Paracelsus, Jakob 
Boehme, Giordano Bruno, Spinoza, and Gottfried Arnold. 

To Goethe's delight he found magic and alchemy “quite other than 
obscure superstitious practices with the object of creating illusion or 
malefice.” It was then, according to Christian Lepinte, author of Goethe 
et Voccultisme, that Goethe began “to aspire with all his strength to 
shatter the framework of a mechanized universe, to find the living 
science capable of revealing to him the ultimate secret of nature." From 
Philippus Aureolus Theophrastus Bombastus von Hohenheim, or Para¬ 
celsus, Goethe learned that the occult, because it deals with living reality 
and not dead catalogs, might come closer to the truth than science, and 
that the sage unveiling the secrets of nature was not necessarily profan- 


ing a forbidden sanctuary but might be walking in the footsteps of 
divinity, a person privileged to look deeply into the mystery of souls and 
of cosmic forces. 

Above all, Goethe learned that the treasures of nature are not discov¬ 
ered by one who is not in sympathy with nature. He realized that the 
normal techniques of botany could not get near to the living being of 
a plant as an organism in a cycle of growth. Some other form of looking 
was needed which could unite itself with the life of the plant. To obtain 
a clearer picture of a plant, Goethe would tranquilize himself at night 
before going to sleep by visualizing the entire cycle of a plant's develop¬ 
ment through its various stages from seed to seed. In the splendid ducal 
gardens at Weimar, in the Gartenhaus quarters given to him by the 
Duke, Goethe developed an acute interest in living plants, an interest 
which was sharpened by his friendship with the sole local apothecary, 
Wilhelm Heinrich Sebastian Buchholz, who kept a garden of medicinal 
herbs and plants of special interest and with whom Goethe built up a 
private botanical garden. 

In the grander botanical gardens of Padua, where Paracelsus had 
preceded him, Goethe was most impressed by a high, broad wall of fiery 
red bells, Bignonia radicans, that glowed enchantingly. He was also 
attracted by a palm because he was able to discern in its fanlike quality 
a complete development from the simple lance-shaped leaves near the 
ground, through successive separations, up to a spatulate sheaf where a 
branchlet of blossoms emerged, strangely unrelated to the preceding 


Mil'll*, • __ .... 









growth. From the observation of this complex series of transitional forms 
Goethe obtained the inspiration for what was to become his doctrine 
of the metamorphosis of plants. In a flash he realized what had been 
accumulating in his mind through long years of association with plants: 
the fan palm showed clear, living proof that all the lateral outgrowths 
of the plant were simply variations of a single structure: the leaf.* 
Goethe saw that propagation and prolification of one organ into another 
was simply a process of metamorphosis. He saw that each organ though 

outwardly changed from a similarity to a dissimilarity had a virtual inner 

At Goethe s request the Padua gardener cut from the fan palm an 
entire sequence of modifications which Goethe carried away with him 
in several pasteboard containers, where they lasted several years. As for 
the palm tree, it still stands in the Padua botanical gardens despite 
numerous intervening wars and revolutions. 

With his new way of looking at plants Goethe came to the conclusion 
that nature, by bringing forth one part through another, could achieve 
the most diversified forms through modification of a single organ. “The 
variation of plant forms, whose unique course I had long been following, 
now awakened in me more and more the idea that the plant forms round 
about us are not predetermined, but are happily mobile and flexible, 
enabling them to adapt to the many conditions throughout the world, 
which influence them, and to be formed and re-formed with them.” 

Goethe also recognized that the process of development and refine¬ 
ment of form in plants worked through a threefold cycle of expansion 
and contraction. The expansion of foliage was followed by a contraction 
into calyx and bracts; there followed a splendid expansion into the petals 
of the corolla and a contraction into the meeting point of stamen and 
stigma; finally there came a swelling into fruit followed by a contraction 

into seed. This six-step cycle completed, the essential plant was ready 
to start all over again. 

Ernst Lehrs' thoughtful evaluation of Goethe in Man or Matter says 

*Sir George Trevelyan in a chapter on Goethe's plant metamorphosis in his forthcom¬ 
ing book on architecture, points out that by “leaf” Goethe did not mean the stem leaf, 
which is itself a manifestation of the basic organ. Some other word, says Trevelyan, is 
needed, such as “phyllome,” to imply the archetypal ideal organ which underlies every 
organ of the plant and is able to transfer one part into another. 

The Metamorphosis of Plants 111 

that another natural principle is implicit in this cycle for which Goethe 
did not coin a specific term, “although he shows through other utter¬ 
ances that he was well aware of it, and of its universal significance for 
all life.’' Lehrs calls this principle that of renunciation. 

In the life of the plant this principle shows itself most conspicuously 
where the green leaf is heightened into the flower. While progressing 
from leaf to flower the plant undergoes a decisive ebb in its vitality. 
Compared with the leaf, the flower is a dying organ. This dying, however, 
is of a kind we may aptly call a “dying into being. Life in its mere 
vegetative form is here seen withdrawing in order that a higher manifesta¬ 
tion of the spirit may take place. The same principle can be seen at work 
in the insect kingdom when the caterpillar’s tremendous vitality passes 
over into the short-lived beauty of the butterfly. In the human being it 
is responsible for that metamorphosis or organic process which occurs on 
the path from the metabolic to the nervous system, and which we came 
to recognize as the precondition for the appearance of consciousness 

within the organism. 

Lehrs marvels at the powerful forces which must be at work in the 
plant organism at the point of transition from its green to its colored 
parts. They enforce, says Lehrs, a complete halt upon the juices that rise 
up right into the calyx, so that these bring nothing of their life-bearing 
activity into the formation of the flower, but undergo a complete trans¬ 
mutation, not gradually, but with a sudden leap. 

After achieving its masterpiece in the flower, the plant once more goes 
through a process of withdrawal, this time into the tiny organs of fertiliza¬ 
tion. After fertilization, the fruit begins to swell: once more the plant 
produces an organ with a more or less conspicuous spatial extension. This 
is followed by a final and extreme contraction in the forming of the seed 
inside the fruit. In the seed the plant gives up all outer appearance to such 
a degree that nothing seems to remain but a small, insignificant speck of 
organized matter. Yet this tiny, inconspicuous thing bears in it the power 
of bringing forth a whole new plant. 

Lehrs points out that in its three successive rhythms of expansion and 
contraction the plant reveals the basic rule of its existence. 

During each expansion, the active principle of the plant presses forth 
into visible appearance; during each contraction it withdraws from outer 
embodiment into what we may describe as a more formless pure state of 
being. We thus find the spiritual principle of the plant engaged in a kind 


of breathing rhythm, now appearing, now disappearing, now assuming 
power over matter; now withdrawing from it again. 

Goethe saw in the changeableness of all the external characteristics 
of plants nothing but appearance; he drew the conclusion that the 
nature of the plant was not to be found in these characteristics, but had 
to be sought at a deeper level. The thought became more and more alive 
in him that it might be possible to develop all plants from a single one. 
This small conceit was destined to transform the science of botany, 
indeed the whole concept of the world: with it came the idea of evolu¬ 
tion. Metamorphosis was to become the key to the whole alphabet of 
nature. But, whereas Darwin was to assume that external influences, like 
mechanical causes, work upon the nature of an organism and modify it 
accordingly, to Goethe the single alterations were various expressions of 
the archetypal organism (Urorganismus), which possesses within itself 
the capacity to take on manifold forms, and which at a particular time 
takes on that form which is best suited to the conditions of the external 
environing world. Goethe’s Urorganismus is a sort of Platonic idea in 
the eye of the created mind. 

Aristotle’s philosophy teaches that, besides original matter, another 
principle is necessary to complete the triune nature of every particle, 
and this is form: an invisible, but still, in an ontological sense of the 
word, a substantial being, really distinct from matter proper. Thus, as 
the theosophist Helena Blavatsky interprets Aristotle, in an animal or 
a plant, besides the bones, the flesh, the nerves, the brains, and the 
blood, in the former, and besides the pulpy matter, tissues, fibers, and 
juice in the latter, there must be a substantial form, which Aristotle 
named, in the horse, the horse’s soul; which Proclus identified as the 
demon of every mineral, plant, or animal; and which was later catego¬ 
rized by medieval philosophers as the elementary spirits of the four 

Trevelyan explains the kernel of Goethe’s philosophy as lying in a 
metaphysical concept of nature. 

The godhead is at work in the living, not in the dead; it is present in 
everything in the process of development and transformation, not in what 
has already taken shape and rigidified. Thus, reason in its strivings towards 
the divine is concerned with putting to use what has already developed 
and grown torpid. 

The Metamorphosis of Plants 113 

Seeing that every part of the plant is a metamorphosis of the arche¬ 
typal "leaf" organ, Goethe came to the conception of an archetypal 
plant, or Ur-pflanze, a supersensible force capable of developing into 
myriad different forms. This, says Trevelyan, is no single plant, but a 
force that holds the potentiality of every plant form within it. 

All plants are thus seen as specific manifestations of the archetypal 
plant which controls the entire plant kingdom and gives the value to 
nature’s artistry in creating forms. It is in ceaseless play within the world 
of plant form, capable of moving backwards and forwards, up and down, 
in and out, through the scale of forms, 

Summing up his discovery, Goethe asked, “If all plants were not 
modeled on one pattern, how could I recognize that they are plants?" 
Filled with delight, Goethe declared he could now invent plant forms, 
even if they had never been realized on earth before. 

From Naples Goethe wrote to his friend and fellow poet in Weimar, 
Johann Gottfried von Herder: “I must tell you confidentially that I am 
very close to the secret of the creation of plants, and that it is the 
simplest thing one could imagine. The archetypal plant will be the 
strangest creature in the world, which nature herself ought to envy me. 
With this model and the key to it, one can invent plants endlessly which 
mpst be consistent—that is, if they did not exist, yet they could exist, 
and not some artistic or poetic shadows and appearances but possessing 
inner truth and inevitability. The same law can be applied to everything 
living." Goethe now pursued the idea “with joy and ecstasy, lovingly 
immersing myself in it in Naples and Sicily,” applying the idea to every 
plant he saw, writing reports to Herder on what took place “with as 
much enthusiasm as was manifested over the finding of the lost silver 
piece in the gospel parable.” 

For two years Goethe observed, collected, studied phenomena in 
detail, made many sketches and accurate drawings. “I pursued my 
botanical studies, into which I was guided, driven, forced—and then 
held captive by my interest.” Back in Germany after two years in Italy, 
Goethe found that the new vision of life he had acquired was incompre¬ 
hensible to his fellow countrymen. 


From Italy, rich m forms, I was plunged back into formless Ger¬ 
many, exchanging a sunny sky for a gloomy one. My friends, instead 
, “ comforting me and drawing me back to them, drove me to despair. 

| My . dell f ht m thin 8 s rei "ote and almost unknown to them, my sorrow 

| and grief over what I had lost, seemed to offend them. I received no 

j empathy, no one understood my language. I could not adjust myself 

| to this distressing situation, so great was the loss to which my exterior 

I senses must become reconciled. But gradually my spirit returned and 

i sought to preserve itself intact. 

I Goethe set his thoughts on paper in a first essay, “On the Metamor- 
| phosis of Plants," in which he traced “the manifold specific phenomena 
I in the magnificent garden of the universe back to one simple general 
| principle " and stressed nature's method of “producing in accord with 
definite laws, a living structure that is a model of everything artistic.” 
The essay, which was to generate the science of morphology in plants, 
was written in an unusual style, different from contemporary scientific 
writings in that it did not pursue each idea to its full conclusion but, in 
a cryptic manner, left room for interpretation. “Well satisfied with my 

L roc ^J ure > sa y s Goethe, I was flattered to believe myself auspiciously 

launched on a career in science. But the same thing happened to me 

^ at * ^ad experienced in purely literary work; once more, at the very 
^outset, 1 was repulsed.” 

Goethe’s regular publisher refused the manuscript, telling him he was 
literary man, not a scientist. Goethe found it hard to understand why 
the publisher would not print the brochure when, “merely by risking six 
Sheets of paper at the very most he might have retained for himself a 
yolific, reliable, easily satisfied author, who was just getting a fresh 
k "rt" When the brochure was printed elsewhere Goethe was further 
urprised to find it completely ignored by botanist and public alike. 

r ??^ T pui ? Ilc t said Goethe] demand that every man remain in his own 
held. Nowhere would anyone grant that science and poetry can be united, 
eople forgot that science had developed from poetry and they failed to 
take into consideration that a swing of the pendulum might beneficently 
reunite the two, at a higher level and to mutual advantage. 

The Metamorphosis of Plants 115 

Goethe then made the mistake of giving away copies of the brochure 
to friends outside his immediate circle. These friends, said he, were by 
no means tactful in their comments. 

No one dared to accommodate himself to my method of expressing 
myself. It is most tormenting not to be understood when one feels sure 
himself, after a great stress and strain, that one understands both one’s 
self and one’s subject. It drove one to insanity to hear repeated again and 
again a mistake from which one has himself just escaped by a hair’s 
breadth, and nothing is more painful than to have the things that should 
unite us with informed and intelligent men give rise instead to un¬ 
bridgeable separation. 

To his newly acquired friend and fellow poet Johann Christoph Fried¬ 
rich von Schiller, Goethe gave a spirited explanation of his theory of the 
metamorphosis of plants, with graphic pen sketches of a symbolic plant. 

He listened and looked with great interest, with unerring comprehen¬ 
sion, but when I had ended he shook his head, saying: ‘That is not an 
experience, that is an idea/ ” Goethe was taken aback and a little 
irritated. Controlling himself he said: “How splendid that I have ideas 
without knowing it, and can see them before my eyes.” From the 
argument Goethe was left with the philosophic concept that ideas must 
be clearly independent of space and time, whereas experience is re¬ 
stricted to space and time. “The simultaneous and successive are there¬ 
fore intimately bound together in an idea, whereas they are always 
separated in experience.” 

It was eighteen years after the Congress of Vienna before references 
to the metamorphosis of plants began to appear in botanical texts and 
other writings, and thirty years before it was fully accepted by botanists. 
When the essay became known in Switzerland and France people were 
astonished to find that a poet “normally occupied with moral 
phenomena associated with feeling and power and imagination, could 
have achieved such an important discovery.” 

Late in life Goethe added another basic idea to the science of botany. 
With his perception carefully attuned to nature he realized— a genera¬ 
tion before Darwin was to approach the same subject—that vegetation 
had a tendency to grow in two distinct ways: vertically and spirally. With 


his poet s intuition Goethe labeled the vertical tendency, with its sus¬ 
taining principle, male; the spiral tendency, which conceals itself during 
the development of the plant but predominates during blossoming and 
| fruiting, he labeled female. “When we see,” said Goethe, “that the 
vertical system is definitely male and the spiral definitely female, we will 
be able to conceive of all vegetation as androgynous from the root up. 
In the course of the transformation of growth the two systems are 
separated, and take opposite courses to be reunited on a higher level.” 

Goethe held a lofty and comprehensive view of the significance of the 

l h? 3 / 6 and / emale P rin ciples as spiritual opposites in the cosmos. Lehrs 
elaborated on it: “In order that spiritual continuity may be maintained 
within the coming and going multitude of nature’s creations, the physi¬ 
cal stream must suffer discontinuity at certain intervals. In the case of 
the plant this discontinuity is achieved by the breaking asunder of the 
male and female growth-principles. When they have reunited, the type 
begins to abandon either the entire old plant or at least part of it, 
according to whether the species is an annual or a perennial one, in order 
to concentrate on the tiny seed, setting, as it were, its living seal on it.” 

o Goethe the fact that the action of the root of a plant is directed 
earthward toward moisture and darkness, whereas the stem or trunk 
strives skyward in the opposite direction toward the light and the air, 
was a truly magical phenomenon. To explain it Goethe postulated a 
force opposite, or polar, to Newton’s gravity, to which he gave the name 
levity. Newton,” says Lehrs, “explained to you—or at least was once 
supposed to explain, why an apple fell; but he never thought of explain¬ 
ing the exact correlative but infinitely more difficult question, how the 
apple got up there.” The concept led Goethe to a picture of the earth 
as being surrounded and penetrated by a field of force in every respect 
the opposite of the earth’s gravitational field. 

As the gravity field decreases in strength.” says Lehrs, “with increas- 
ng distance from the center of the field, that is, in the outward direc- 
,On, so does the levity-field decrease in strength with increasing distance 
5? ,ts P er 'P he, y. « in the inward direction. ... This is why things 

the influence of gravity and ‘rise’ under the influence of 
*wty. Lehrs adds that if there were no field working outward toward 

The Metamorphosis of Plants J17 

the cosmic periphery, the entire material content of the earthly realm 
would be reduced by gravitation to a spaceless point, just as under the 
sole influence of the peripheral field of levity it would dissipate into the 
universe. “Just as in volcanic activity heavy matter is suddenly and 
swiftly driven heavenwards under the influence of levity, so in a storm 
does light matter stream earthwards under the influence of gravity.” 

Goethe, taking his inspiration from the Rosicrucian Aurea Catena of 
1781, presumed to be authored by Herwerd von Forchenbrun, saw the 
whole universe as being moved by opposite polar forces which manifest 
as light and dark, or plus and minus in electricity, or oxidation and 
reduction in chemistry. 

In his old age Goethe conceived the earth to be an organism animated 
by the same rhythm of inspiration and evaporation as a plant or an 
animal. He compared the earth and her hydrosphere, in which he 
included the humid atmosphere and its clouds, to a great living being 
perpetually inhaling and exhaling. He said: 

If she inhales, she draws the hydrosphere to her, so that, coming near 
her surface, it is condensed to clouds and rain. This state I call water- 
affirmative ( Wasser-Bejahung]. Should it continue for an indefinite pe¬ 
riod, the earth would be drowned. This the earth does not allow, but 
exhales again, and sends the watery vapours upwards, where they are 
dissipated through the whole space of the higher atmosphere. These 
become so rarefied that not only does the sun penetrate them with its 
brilliance, but the eternal darkness of infinite space is seen through them 
as a fresh blue. This state of the atmosphere I call water-negative 
[ WasserVemeinung], For, just as under the contrary influence, not only 
does water come profusely from above, but also the moisture of the earth 
cannot be dried and dissipated—so, on the contrary, in this state not only 
does no moisture come from above, but the damp of the earth itself flies 
upwards; so that, if this should continue for an indefinite period, the 
earth, even if the sun did not shine, would be in danger of drying up. 

The actual phenomenon of light Goethe considered to be inscrutable, 
but disagreed with Newton’s concept that light waves were light itself 
and that light was composed of various colors. Goethe considered light 
waves to be the physical manifestation of eternal light. He saw light and 
dark to be polar opposites, with a series of colors formed by their 
interaction: darkness was not complete passive absence of light: it was 


something active, something that opposed itself to light and interplayed 
with it. He imagined light and dark as being related like the north and 
south poles of a magnet. If darkness were absolute void, said Goethe, 
there would be no perception looking into the dark. The importance 
Goethe attached to his theory of color is clear from his statement late 
in life that‘T do not attach importance to my work as a poet, but I do 
claim to be alone in my time in apprehending the true nature of color.” 

When Goethe died on March 22, 1832, twenty-seven years before 
Darwin was to proclaim his principle of organic evolution, he was consid¬ 
ered Germany s greatest poet, with a universal mind capable of compass¬ 
ing every domain of human activity and knowledge. But as a scientist 
he was considered a layman. 

Though a genus of plants, the Goethea, was named for him, as was 
a mineral, goethite, it was as a courtesy to a great man, more than to a 
scientist. In due course Goethe was credited with having coined the 
word morphology and of having formulated the concept of botanical 
morphology which persists to this day. He was credited with the discov¬ 
ery of the volcanic origin of mountains, with establishing the first system 
of weather stations, with being interested in connecting the Gulf of 
Mexico with the Pacific Ocean, and with wanting to build steamships 
and flying machines; but the scope of Goethe's formulation of the 
metamorphosis of plants had to await the advent of Darwin to be fully 
appreciated, and even then it was largely misunderstood. 

As Rudolf Steiner was to write, almost a hundred years later, 

It was from observations similar to those of Goethe that Darwin pro¬ 
ceeded when he asserted his doubt as to the constancy of the external 
forms of genera and species. But the conclusions which the two thinkers 
reached were entirely unlike. Whereas Darwin considered that the whole 
nature of the organism was, in fact, comprised in these characteristics, 
and came to the conclusion, therefore, that there is nothing constant in 
the life of the plant, Goethe went deeper and drew the inference that, 
since those characteristics are not constant, what is constant must be 
sought in something else which lies beneath changeable externalities. 

The Metamorphosis of Plants 119 


Plants Will Grow 
to Please You 

Goethe’s poetic notion that a spiritual essence lies behind the material 
form of plants was put on a firmer basis by a medical doctor and a 
professor of physics at the University of Leipzig. Credited with over 
forty papers on such subjects as the measurement of electrical currents 
and the perceptions of colors, Gustav Theodor Fechner came to his 
profound understanding of plants in a totally unexpected way. In 1839 
he began to stare at the sun in the hope of discovering the nature of 
afterimages, those strange pictures which seem to persist on the retina 
of the eye even after the cessation of normal visual stimulus. 

A few days later, Fechner was horrified to realize that he was going 


rblind. Exhausted from overwork, and unable in his new affliction to face 
[his friends and colleagues, he retired to a darkened room with a mask 
lover his face, to live in solitude praying for recovery. 

[ One spring morning three years later, sensing that his sight had been 
I restored, he emerged into the light of day. Joyously walking along the 
! Mulde River he instantly recognized that flowers and trees along its 
[banks were what he called be-souled. “As I stood by the water and 

r m 

[ watched a flower, it was as though I saw its soul lift itself from the bloom 
; and, drifting through the mist, become clearer until the spiritual form 
[hung clearly above it. Perhaps it wanted to stand on the roof of its 

^budding house in order better to enjoy the sun. Believing itself invisible, 


j: it was quite surprised when a little child appeared.” 

[' While still in semi-seclusion Fechner began setting down a series of 
Lsimilar remarkable impressions. The result was Nanna, or the Soul-Life 
[ of Plants , published in Leipzig in 1848, which though scathingly re¬ 
jected by his fellow academicians, became so popular that it was still 
[being printed in Germany three-quarters of a century later. 

[ In his introduction, Fechner explained that he happened on the title 
| by accident. At first he thought of calling his new book Flora , after the 
| Roman goddess of flowers, or Hamadryas, after the wood nymphs which 
[ the Hellenes recognized as living only as long as the trees of which they 
jj were the spirit. But he rejected the first as too botanical, the second as 
t too classically stiff and antiquarian. One day, while reading Teutonic 
\ mythology, Fechner learned that Baldur, god of light, had, like Actaeon 

■ peeping at Diana, secretly gazed upon the naked form of the flower 
I princess Nanna as she bathed in a stream. When her natural loveliness 

was enhanced by the energy over which Baldur ruled, his heart, said the 
| legend, was pierced, and the marriage of Light and Flowers became a 
| foregone conclusion. 

i Fechner’s awakening to the soul life of plants turned him from pro- 
: fessing physics to professing philosophy, of which branch of knowledge 
l he was given a chair at Leipzig the same year that Nanna appeared. 
L However, even before his realization that plants had undreamed-of 

■ sensitivity, Fechner had concerned himself with cosmic problems in his 

[■ Little Book of Life After Death , posthumously published in Dresden in 


! Plants Will Grow to Please You 121 



1936, and in Comparative Anatomy of the Angels , a work which he 
considered so risque that he wrote it under the pseudonym of Dr. Mises 

In the Little Book Fechner put forward the idea that human life was 
lived in three stages: one of continuous sleep from conception to birth- 
one of half wakefulness, which humans called terrestrial life; and one of 
fuller alertness, which began only after death. In Comparative Anatomy 
he traced the path of evolution from monocellular organisms through 
man on to angelic higher beings spherical in form and capable of seeing 
universal gravitation as ordinary humans perceive light, of communicat¬ 
ing not acoustically but through luminous symbols. 

Fechner introduced Nanna with the concept that believing whether 
plants have a soul or not changes one’s whole insight into nature. If man 
admitted to an omnipresent, all-knowing, and almighty god who be¬ 
stowed animation on all things, then nothing in the world could be 
excluded from this munificence, neither plant nor stone nor crystal nor 
wave. Why would universal spirit, he asked, sit less firmly in nature than 
in human beings, and not be as much in command of nature’s power 
as it is of human bodies? 

Anticipating Bose’s work, Fechner further reasoned that if plants 
have life and soul, they must have some sort of nervous system, hidden 
perhaps in their strange spiral fibers. Going beyond the limitation of 
"today’s mechanistic physiology, Fechner referred to “spiritual nerves” 
in the universe, one expression of which was the interconnection of 
celestial bodies, not with “long ropes,” but with a unified web of light, 
gravity, and forces as yet unknown. The soul, said Fechner, receives 
sensations, in a manner analogous to that of a spider which is alerted 
to outside influences by its web. It seemed reasonable to Fechner to 
accept the idea that plants have nerves, their purported absence being 
due to man’s ignorance rather than to any innate vegetal deficiency. 

According to Fechner, the psyche of plants is no more linked to their 
nervous system than is the soul of man to a human body. Both are 
diffused throughout, yet separated from all the organs which they direct. 
“None of my limbs anticipates anything for itself,” wrote Fechner, 
“only I, the spirit of my whole, sense everything that happens to me.’ 

Fechner created a new branch of learning called psychophysics , which 


abolished the artificial separation between mind and body and held the 
two entities to be only different sides of one reality, the mind appearing 
subjectively, the body objectively, as a circle is either concave or convex 
depending on whether the observer stands inside it or outside. The 
confusion resulted, said Fechner, because it was difficult to hold both 
points of view simultaneously. To Fechner all things express in different 
ways the same anima mundi, or cosmic soul, which came into existence 
with the universe, is its conscience, and will die when and if the universe 
dies. Basic to his animate philosophy was the axiom that all life is one 
and simply takes up different shapes in order to divert itself. The highest 
good and supreme end of all action is the maximum pleasure not of the 

individual but of all, said Fechner, and on this he based all his rules for 

Since spirit to Fechner was a deistic universal, it was useless to refer 
to souls as wholly individual, whether vegetal or human. Nonetheless 
souls provided the only criteria for forming a conception of other souls 
and making themselves known to them by outward physical signs. To 
the undoubted irritation of today’s prevalent school of behaviorist, “car- 
rot-and-stick” psychology, Fechner also maintained that in its soul alone 
was the true freedom of any creature. 

Because a plant is rooted, it necessarily has less freedom of movement 
than an animal, Fechner declared, though by moving its branches, 
leaves, and tendrils as it sees fit it behaves much like an animal which 
opens its claws upon capture or runs away when frightened. 

More than a century before experiments in the Soviet Union appar¬ 
ently convinced the Russians that plants can regulate their own needs 
with the help of man-designed instrumentation, Fechner asked, “Why 
should we believe that a plant is not any less aware of hunger and thirst 
than an animal? The animal searches for food with its whole body, the 
plant with portions of it, guided not with nose, eyes or ears but with 
other senses.” It seemed to Fechner that “plant people,” calmly living 
their lives in the spots of their rooting, might well wonder why human 
bipeds keep rushing about. “In addition to souls which run and shriek 
and devour, might there not be souls which bloom in stillness, exhale 
fragrance and satisfy their thirst with dew and their impulses by their 

Plants Will Grow to Please You 123 

burgeoning? Could not flowers, Fechner asked, communicate with 

each other by the very perfumes they exude, becoming aware of each 

other s presence by a means more delightful than the verbiage and 

breath of humans, which is seldom delicate or fragrant except, by coinci¬ 
dence, in lovers? 

From inside comes the voice,” wrote Fechner, "and from inside 
comes the scent. Just as one can tell human beings in the dark from the 
tone of their voices, so in the dark, every flower can be recognized by 
its scent. Each carries the soul of its progenitor.” Flowers having no 
fragrance he likened to animals which live alone in the wilds, and those 
with perfume to gregarious beasts. In the end, posited this German sage, 
was it not one of the ultimate purposes of human bodies to serve vegetal 
life, surrounding it by emitting carbon dioxide for the plants to breathe, 
and manuring them with human bodies after death? Did not flowers and 
trees finally consume man and, by combining his remains together with 
raw earth, water, air, and sunlight, transform and transmute human 
bodies into the most glorious forms and colors? 

Fechner s animism, for which he was so wrathfully castigated by 
his contemporaries, led him to issue, two years after Nanna, a book on 
atomic theory, in which, long before the birth of particle physics, he 
argued that atoms were centers of pure energy and the lowest elements 
in a spiritual hierarchy. The following year he brought out Zendavesta, 
its title inspired by the sacred writings of the ancient Zoroastrians, who 
claimed that their great religious leader Zarathustra had taught his 
people how to breed the food plants that still today form our chief source 
of nourishment. The original Zendavesta might be considered the first 
textbook on agriculture. Fechner’s work was characterized by the 
younger American philosopher William James as a "wonderful book by 
a wonderful genius. Its fascinating and complex philosophy contained 
such concepts as that of "mental energy ” which appealed strongly to 

Sigmund Freud and without which the edifice of psychoanalysis might 
never have been built. 

Though Fechner heroically attempted to put forward what his con¬ 
temporaries, and many present-day philosophers, would call "an idealis¬ 
tic view of reality,” he ceaselessly tried to reconcile it with the methodol- 
ogy of modern science, in which he was trained. 



Perhaps this was why the Leipzig physician and physicist, character¬ 
ized as one of the most versatile thinkers of the nineteenth century was 
so excellent an observer of the details of the vegetable world surrounding 
hum In Nanna he described the sex organs of plants-which in humans 
St. Paul considered so uncomely—as marvels of beauty, lyricizing on the 
manner m which plants lure insects to wriggle into their genitalia to 
drink the hidden nectar and thus shake fertilizing pollen from the 
anthers of some distant blossom onto the stigma of their petals. Fechner 
marveled at how plants could devise the most sophisticated systems to 
spread their species, how the puffball waits to be trodden upon in order 
to produce a cloud of minute spores which are carried a great distance 
by the wind, how the maple casts off propeller seeds that spin away with 
a passing breeze, how fruit trees seduce birds, beasts, and man into 
distributing their seeds afar, neatly packaged in nourishing manure, how 

viviparous water lilies and ferns reproduce tiny but perfect plants on the 
surface of their leaves, 

Fechner also expatiated on plant roots, the sensitive tips of which 

enable plants to maintain a sense of direction, and on the climbing 

tendrils of plants which, searching for purchase, repeat perfect circles 
in the air. 

Though Fechner’s work was not taken seriously in his own time, one 
Englishman, whose life ran parallel to Fechner’s, had the daring to 
recognize that some mysterious force in plants had the characteristics 
of sentience or intelligence. After publishing his earthshaking Origin of 
Species in 1859, Charles Robert Darwin devoted the greater part of his 
remaining twenty-three years not only to an elaboration on his theory 
o evo ution but to a meticulous study of the behavior of plants. 

In his 575-page The Power of Movement in Plants, published just 
before his death, Darwin developed in a more scientific way than 
Fechner the idea that the habit of moving at certain times of day was 
the common inheritance of both plants and animals. The most striking 
part of this similarity, he wrote, was “the localization of their sensitive¬ 
ness and the transmission of an influence from the excited part to 
another which consequently moves.” 

Though this seemed to imply that Fechner might have been correct 
m stating that plants, like animals, had nervous systems, Darwin stopped 

Plants Will Grow to Please You 125 

short of making this assertion because he could find no such system. 
Nevertheless, he could not get out of his mind that plants must have 
sentient ability. In the very last sentence of his massive volume, referring 
to the properties of a plant's radicle—that part of its embryo which 
develops into the primary root—he stated boldly: “It is hardly an exag¬ 
geration to say that the tip of the radicle acts like the brain of one of 
the lower animals: the brain being seated within the anterior end of the 
body, receiving impressions from the sense organs, and directing the 
several movements.” 

In an earlier book, The Fertilization of Orchids , published in 1862, 
one of the most masterful and complete studies on a single species of 
plant life ever to appear, Darwin set forth in highly technical language 
the way insects caused the fertilization of those unusual flowers, which 
he had learned of by sitting on the grass for hours and patiently watching 
the process. 

In more than a dozen years of experiments conducted on fifty-seven 
species of plants Darwin found that products of cross-pollination resul¬ 
ted in more numerous, larger, heavier, more vigorous and more fertile 
offspring, even in species that are normally self-pollinating, and he put 
his finger on the secret of the production of such copious amounts of 
pollen. Though the odds were millions to one against it, if the pollen 
of an immobile plant could mix with a faraway relative, its offspring were 
likely to attain what came to be known as “hybrid vigor.” Of this Darwin 
wrote that “the advantages of cross-fertilization do not follow from some 
mysterious virtue in the mere union of two distinct individuals, but from 
such individuals having been subjected during previous generations to 
different conditions, or to their having varied in a manner commonly 
called spontaneous, so that in either case their sexual elements have been 
in some degree differentiated.” 

For all his academic preciseness, the thrust of Darwin's theory of 
evolution and of the survival of the fittest indicated that something more 
than chance was in play. That this something might accommodate to 
the wish of man was the next extraordinary development. 

In 1892, ten years after Darwin's death and five years after Fechner's, 
a fifty-two-page nurseryman's catalog, New Creations in Fruits and Flow- 


ers, published in Santa Rosa, California, created a sensation in the 
United States. Unlike similar booklets, which had thus far included not 
more than half a dozen novelties among the hundreds advertised, this 
catalog contained not a single plant known to man. 

Among its horticultural marvels were a hardwood giant Paradox wal¬ 
nut, which, growing as fast as a spongy pulpwood, could form a hedge 
tall enough to screen a house within a few years; a giant daisy, named 
for Mount Shasta, with mammoth snow-white petals; an apple, sweet 
on one side and sour on the other; and a cross between a strawberry and 
a raspberry which, though it did not fruit, seemed as strange to followers 
of the theory of natural selection as would the mating of a chicken with 
an owl. 

When the catalog finally made its way six thousand miles to the 
Netherlands, it caught the eye of an Amsterdam professor, Hugo De 
Vries, in the process of rediscovering the modern science of genetics— 
originated in the mid-nineteenth century by the Austrian monk Gregor 
Johann Mendel, but buried during his lifetime in the shelves of his 
monastery library. De Vries, later to be celebrated for carrying forward 
Darwin's life work with his own theory of mutation, was flabbergasted 
by the catalog and the apparent ability of one man to bring into the 
world botanical specimens undreamed of by nature. To satisfy his curi¬ 
osity, De Vries set off across the world to visit the catalog’s publisher, 
who turned out to be a New England transplant to California, Luther 
Burbank, whose feats with plants led to the new transitive verb to 
hurhank , * and his reputation as the “Wizard of Horticulture” was to 
infuriate botanists unable to understand the magic of his methods. 

When De Vries came to Santa Rosa and saw growing in the “wi¬ 
zard s front yard a fourteen-year-old Paradox walnut larger than the 
Persian variety four times its age and a monkey-puzzle tree which could 
stun passers-by by dropping twenty-pound nuts on their heads, he was 
dumbstruck that in the little cottage where Burbank worked there was 

* Webster’s New International Dictionary , 2d ed., lists: “Burbank, v.t. To modify and 
improve (plants or animals) esp. by selective breeding. Also to cross or graft (a plant). 
Hence, figuratively, to improve (anything, as a process or institution) by a selecting of good 
features and rejecting of bad, or by adding good features. 

Plants Will Grow to Please You 127 


neither library nor laboratory and that Burbank’s work notes were kept 
on tearings from brown-paper bags or the backs of letters and envelopes. 

Throughout the evening the bewildered De Vries, who had expected 
files of carefully recorded data which might reveal Burbank’s secrets, 
questioned the plant breeder, only to be told that his art was basically 
“a matter of concentration and the rapid elimination of non-essentials.” 
As for his laboratory, Burbank told De Vries: “I keep it in my head.” 

The Dutch scientist was no more perplexed than were hundreds of 
his American confreres who, lacking any rational explanation for Bur¬ 
bank's methodology, often branded the wizard a charlatan. Burbank’s 
own evaluation of the botanical fraternity did little to appease their 
collective ire. In 1901 Burbank told the San Francisco Floral Congress: 

The chief work of the botanists of yesterday was the study and classifi¬ 
cation of dried, shriveled plant mummies whose souls had fled. They 
thought their classified species were more fixed and unchangeable than 
anything in heaven or earth that we can now imagine. We have learned 
that they are as plastic in our hands as clay in the hands of the potter or 
color on the artists' canvas and can readily be molded into more beautiful 
forms and colors than any painter or sculptor can ever hope to bring forth. 

Unlike the narrower minds which such simple and truthful state¬ 
ments drove to frenzy, De Vries, accepting Burbank as a natural-bom 
genius, wrote of his work that “its value for the doctrine of evolution 
compels our highest admiration.” 

As his biographers almost inadvertently make clear, Burbank was and 
remains an enigma. Born in 1849 in the rural Massachusetts village of 
Lunenburg, the lasting impressions from his schooling came from his 
reading of Henry David Thoreau and of the other great naturalists 
Alexander von Humboldt and Louis Agassiz. But even these were over¬ 
shadowed when he devoured, shortly after its publication in 1868, 
Charles Darwin's massive two-volume The Variation of Animals and 
Plants Under Domestication. Burbank was deeply impressed by its 
theme that organisms, when removed from their natural conditions, 

While still in Massachusetts, Burbank one day happened upon a seed 
ball in his patch of potatoes—a vegetable which almost never sets seed 


\ and is therefore propagated from the buds, or "eyes,” of its tuber. 
| Because he knew that potato seeds, if they could be found, would not 
I grow tubers true to type, and instead would produce a curious batch of 
L mongrels, he excitedly thought that one of them might develop into a 
\ potato miracle. One of the twenty-three seeds in the ball gave rise to 
[ an offspring that managed to double the average yield. Smooth, plump, 

j a n excellent baker, the new potato, unlike its red-skinned progenitor, was 
[ creamy-white. 

i Burbank received $150 from a Marblehead seedman for his discovery 
j and the compliment that it was the best potato the seedman had ever 
[ eaten. Christened the "Burbank,” it was later widely planted by growers 
jj the San Joaquin River delta town of Stockton, California, who grate- 
[ fully presented to Burbank its solid gold miniature replica. Today it 
[ dominates the U.S. potato market. Three days after the original sale— 

! following the terse advice he later gave to a New England farmer who 
i asked him what he should raise on some newly acquired acreage, 

■ Enough money to go to California”—Burbank was on a cross-con tinen- 

tal train. 


l Shortly after Burbank’s arrival in Santa Rosa, Darwin’s The Effects of 
\ Cross and SeLf Fertilisation in the Vegetable Kingdom came out, and 
Burbank was particularly struck by a challenging introductory statement: 

As plants are adapted by such diversified and effective means for 
cross-fertilization, it might have been inferred from this fact alone that 
they derived some great advantage from the process.” To Burbank, this 
i sentence seemed both a blueprint and a command. If Darwin had drawn 
i plans, he would carry them out. 

. Burbank's first chance for fame came in the spring of 1882 when a 
variety of plums known as prunes were coming into their own in hun¬ 
dreds of California orchards as a new money-making fruit, easily dried 
and thus easily shipped and slow to spoil. In March a canny banker in 
the neighboring town of Petaluma, fearful lest he miss the bonanza, 
asked Burbank if he could deliver twenty thousand young prune trees 
for a two-hundred-acre planting by December. Everyone else, said the 
worried banker, had told him this was impossible. Burbank knew that 
if the man had given him two years nothing would have been simpler 

Plants Will Grow to Please You 129 


than to sprout plum trees from seed, bud them with prunes in the late 
summer, and after cutting off the original plum tops, watch them de¬ 
velop into prune seedlings the year following. How, he asked himself, 
could he turn the same trick in eight months? 

It then struck Burbank that almonds, a member of the genus Prunus, 
would sprout much faster than the hard stones of plums. After buying 
a sackful of the oval-shaped nuts, Burbank forced them to sprout in 
warm water, copying a method he had used with corn in Massachusetts, 
which allowed him to beat other farmers to the market by more than 
a week. Even so, the little seedlings were not ready for budding until 
June, and time was running short. With a cash advance from the banker, 
Burbank hired all available nursery help in the region. They worked 
around the clock; when the job was finished, Burbank prayed that his 
tiny seedlings would grow into trees as tall as the average woman in the 
four months remaining before the contract called for delivery. His luck 
held; before Christmas he was able to deliver 19,500 trees to the over¬ 
joyed banker. Other nurserymen were left gasping at the feat, which not 
only produced a $6,000 windfall for Burbank but taught him that mass 
production was one of the keys to prodding out of nature secrets she was 
normally unwilling to give up. 

- Thus began Burbank’s pomological revolution, which led to the devel¬ 
opment of new prunes and plums—including one, the Climax, which 
tasted like a pineapple, and another which tasted like a pear—that today 
still account for over half of California’s giant crop; the ever-popular 
Burbank July Elberta peach, a luscious Burbank Flaming Gold necta¬ 
rine, a bush-type chestnut, which bore a crop six months after its seed 
was put in the ground, a white blackberry the color of an icicle, and two 
quinces that were so good that most nurseries still stock no other. 

In developing new fruit, Burbank was so adept and fast that he could 
race through thousands of cross-pollinations while orthodox plant spe¬ 
cialists in laboratories were pedantically poring over sheaves of notes 
involving only a few dozen. It was no wonder that the schoolmen 
increasingly accused him of trickery, mainly of buying his “new crea¬ 
tions” abroad. For Burbank, convinced that plants, like people, would 
behave differently when away from home, would order, from as far away 
as Japan and New Zealand, experimental varieties to cross with home- 


grown standbys. Burbank introduced over a thousand new plants, which, 
if evenly spaced over his working career, would have amounted to a 
never-before-seen specimen every three weeks. Despite the backbiting 
cavils from envious and narrow-minded scientists, this miracle making 
was heralded by professional experts big enough to recognize genius 
when they saw it, even if it passed their understanding. 

Liberty Hyde Bailey, the universally recognized dean of American 
botany, who had earlier told a world horticultural congress that “man 
could not do much to produce variations in plants,” came from Cornell 
University to see what Burbank was doing to create such a furor. He left 
Santa Rosa stupefied and wrote the same year in an issue of World’s 
Work magazine: 

Luther Burbank is a breeder of plants by profession, and in this business 
he stands almost alone in this country. So many and so striking have been 
the new plants that he has given to the world that he has been called the 
“Wizard of Horticulture.” This sobriquet has prejudiced a good many 
people against his work. Luther Burbank is not a wizard. He is an honest, 
straight-forward, careful, inquisitive and persistent man. He believes that 
causes produce results. He has no other magic than that of patient 
inquiry, abiding enthusiasm, an unprejudiced mind, and a remarkably 
acute judgement of the merits and capabilities of plants. 

This was a delight to Burbank, who smarted from the ugly rumors 
circulated about his work in the halls of academe. He told a packed 
lecture hall at Stanford University that “Orthodoxy is ankylosis—no¬ 
body at home: ring up the undertaker for further information!” Profes¬ 
sor H. J. Webber, a geneticist in charge of plant breeding at the U.S. 
Department of Agriculture, maintained that Burbank had single-hand¬ 
edly saved the world nearly a quarter of a century in plant-breeding time. 
David Fairchild, who spent years exploring the world for new plants 
which might prove commercially useful in the United States, though 
baffled by Burbank’s methods, summed up his impressions of his visit 
to Santa Rosa in a letter to a friend: “There are those who say Burbank 
is not scientific. It is true only in the sense that he has tried to do so 
much, and has been so fascinated by the desire to create that he has not 
always noted and labeled the footsteps which he has taken.” 

Just watching Burbank at work took the breath away from countless 

Plants Will Grow to Please You 131 


observers. On his experimental farm in nearby Sebastopol, where forty 
thousand Japanese plums or a quarter of a million flowering bulbs could 
be seen growing at the same time, Burbank would walk down a row of 
thousands of plants—whether tiny seedlings just breaking ground or 
chest-high flowers nearing maturity—and without breaking his stride 
pick out those likely to succeed. One wide-eyed county farm adviser 
described this in his own words: “He’d go along a row of gladioli 
yanking out the ones he didn’t, want as fast as he could pull them up. 
He seemed to have an instinct that told him if a tiny plant would grow 
up to bear the kind of fruit or flowers he wanted. I couldn’t see any 
difference between them, even if 1 stooped and looked closely, but 
Burbank did no more than glance at them.” 

Burbank’s catalogs described his results in such a way that readers 
could imagine he had thousands of workers and several genies helping 
him: “Six new gladioli, the best of a million seedlings.” “The growing 
of 10,000 hybrid clematis plants for several years to get a final six good 
ones.” “Discarding 18,000 calla lilies in order to get one plant.” “My 
Royal Walnut can outgrow ordinary walnuts eight to one and promises 
to revolutionize the furniture business and also perhaps the cord-wood 

* When, on the 18th day of April, 1906, the same earthquake which 
all but devastated San Francisco reduced Santa Rosa to a mass of flaming 
splinters and rubble, the overwhelmed citizens were further stunned 
that not a pane of glass in Burbank’s huge greenhouse not far from the 
center of town was even cracked. 

Burbank was less amazed than his fellow townsmen, though careful 
not to broach the subject directly in public, surmising that his commun¬ 
ing with the forces of nature and the cosmos and his success with plants 
might well have protected his greenhouse. 

His indirect allusions to the personalization of his plants are illustrated 
by an article he wrote in 1906 for Century Magazine: 

The most stubborn living thing in this world, the most difficult to 
swerve [he asserted] is a plant once fixed in certain habits. Remember that 
this plant has preserved its individuality all through the ages; perhaps it 
is one which can be traced backward through eons of time in the very 


rocks themselves. Do you suppose, after all these ages of repetition, the 

■ plant does not become possessed of a will, if you so choose to call it, of 
unparalleled tenacity? 

To Manly P. Hall, founder and president of the Philosophical Re- 
. search Society of Los Angeles and a student of comparative religion, 
mythology, and esoterica, Burbank revealed that when he wanted his 
; plants to develop in some particular and peculiar way not common to 
their kind he would get down on his knees and talk to them. Burbank 
also mentioned that plants have over twenty sensory perceptions but, 
i because they are different from ours, we cannot recognize them. “He 
; was not sure, wrote Hall, “that the shrubs and flowers understood his 
| words, but he was convinced that by some telepathy, they could com- 
| prehend his meaning.” 

i Hall later confirmed what Burbank told the famous yogi, Parama- 
; hansa Yogananda, about his development of the spineless cactus, a 
• years-Iong procedure during which Burbank at first had to pull thousands 
; of cactus thorns from his hands with pliers, though in the end the cacti 
grew without thorns. “While I was conducting my experiments with 

■ cacti,'” said Burbank, “I often talked to the plants to create a vibration 
•of love. ‘You have nothing to fear/ I would tell them. ‘You don't need 


your defensive thorns. I will protect you.’ ” Burbank’s power of love, 
reported Hall, greater than any other, was a subtle kind of nourishment 
that made everything grow better and bear fruit more abundantly. 
[Burbank explained to me that in all his experimentation he took plants 
\ into h* s confidence, asked them to help, and assured them that he held 
r their small lives in deepest regard and affection.” 

I Helen Keller, deaf and blind, after a visit to Burbank, wrote in Out¬ 
look for the Blind: “He has the rarest of gifts, the receptive spirit of a 
child. When plants talk to him, he listens. Only a wise child can 
I understand the language of flowers and trees.” Her observation was 
particularly apt since all his life Burbank loved children. In his essay 
[“Training of the Human Plant,” later published as a book, he an- 
f ticipated the more humane attitudes of a later day and shocked authori- 
[tarian parents by saying, “It is more important for a child to have a good 
| nervous system than to try to ‘force’ it along the line of book knowledge 

[ Plants Will Grow to Please You 133 

at the expense of its spontaneity, its play. A child should learn through 
a medium of pleasure, not of pain. Most of the things that are really 
useful in later life come to the children through play and through 
association with nature.” 

Burbank, like other geniuses, realized that his successes came from 
having conserved the exuberance of a small boy and his wonder for 
everything around him. He told one of his biographers: “I’m almost 
seventy-seven, and I can still go over a gate or run a foot race or kick 
the chandelier. That’s because my body is no older than my mind—and 
my mind is adolescent. It has never grown up and I hope it never will.” 

It was this quality which so puzzled the dour scientists who looked 
askance at his power of creation and bedeviled audiences who expected 
him to be explicit as to how he produced so many horticultural wonders. 
Most of them were as disappointed as the members of the American 
Pomological Society, gathered to hear Burbank tell “all” during a lecture 
entitled “How to Produce New Fruits and Flowers,” who sat agape as 
they heard him say: 

In pursuing the study of any of the universal and everlasting laws of 
nature, whether relating to the life, growth, structure and movements of 
a giant planet, the tiniest plant or of the psychological movements of the 
human brain, some conditions are necessary before we can become one 
of nature's interpreters or the creator of any valuable work for the world. 
Preconceived notions, dogmas and all personal prejudice and bias must 
be laid aside. Listen patiently, quietly and reverently to the lessons, one 
by one, which Mother Nature has to teach, shedding light on that which 
was before a mystery, so that all who will, may see and know. She conveys 
her truths only to those who are passive and receptive. Accepting these 
truths as suggested, wherever they may lead, then we have the whole 
universe in harmony with us. At last man has found a solid foundation 
for science, having discovered that he is part of a universe which is 
eternally unstable in form, eternally immutable in substance. 

Had he known of Fechner, Burbank would have agreed with him 
“that it is a dark and cold world we sit in if we will not open the inward 
eyes of the spirit to the inward flame of nature.” 



Wizard of Tuskegee 






| That plants were able to reveal their hidden secrets upon request was 
\ accepted as normal and natural by a remarkable genius born just before 
i the Civil War, the agricultural chemist George Washington Carver, 
who overcame the handicap of his slave descent to be heralded in his 
; own lifetime as the “Black Leonardo.” 

( During a stunningly creative career, with methods as incomprehensi- 
| ble to his fellow scientists as were those of his professional forebears the 
alchemists, Carver turned the lowly peanut, considered useful only as 
v hog food, and the unknown sweet potato into hundreds of separate 
f products, ranging from cosmetics and axle grease to printer’s ink and 
I coffee. 

From the time he was able to get about by himself in the countryside 
young Carver began to display an uncanny knowledge of all growing 
things. Local farmers in Diamond Grove, a tiny community in the 
foothills of the Ozarks in southwestern Missouri, remembered the weak- 
looking boy roving for hours through their holdings, examining plants 
and bringing back certain varieties with which he could miraculously 
heal sick animals. On his own, the child planted a private garden in a 
remote and unused bit of bottomland. With the remnants of coldframes 
and other stray material he built a secret greenhouse in the woods. Asked 
what he was forever doing all by himself so far from the farmyard, Carver 
replied firmly if enigmatically, “I go to my garden hospital and take care 
of hundreds of sick plants.” 

Farmers’ wives from all over the countryside began bringing him their 
ailing house plants, begging him to make them bloom. Gently caring for 
them in his own way, Carver often sang to them in the same squeaky 
voice which characterized him in manhood, put them in tin cans with 
special soil of his own concoction, tenderly covered them at night, and 
took them out to “play in the sun” during the day. When he returned 
the plants to their owners, and repeatedly was asked how he could work 
his miracles, Carver only said softly: “All Bowers talk to me and so do 
hundreds of little living things in the woods. I learn what I know by 
watching and loving everything.” 

Enrolling in Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, Carver supported 
himself through his skill as a laundryman by doing shirts for students, 
then transferred to the Iowa State College of Agriculture. There among 
his most lasting impressions was the statement of his best-loved teacher, 
Henry Cantwell Wallace, editor of the popular Wallace’s Farmer, that 
“nations endure only as long as their topsoil.” Carrying a heavy load of 
course work and employed by churches as an entirely self-taught organ¬ 
ist, Carver found time to take Wallace’s six-year-old grandson on long 
walks into the woods to talk with plants and fairies, little suspecting that 
the hand he was holding would be that of a Secretary of Agriculture, 
and later, two years before Carver’s own death, Vice President of the 
United States. 

By 1896, Carver had his master’s degree and was invited to join the 


faculty. However, when the founder and president of the Normal and 
Industrial Institute, Booker T. Washington, who had heard of Carver’s 
brilliance, asked him to come to Tuskegee, Alabama, and run the in¬ 
stitute’s agricultural department, Carver decided, like Sir Jagadis 
Chandra Bose, that he could not let the prospect of a comfortable and 
well-paying post on the Iowa State faculty dissuade him from serving his 
own people. So he accepted. 

Carver had not been back in the South more than a few weeks when 
he discerned that the main problem facing the flat land spreading out 
in hundreds of square miles around him was its slow poisoning through 
monotonous planting year in year out of a single crop, cotton, which for 
generations had been sucking fertility out of the soil. To counteract the 
despoliation by thousands of sharecroppers, he decided to set up an 
experimental station. There he had a private laboratory, christened 
“God’s Little Workshop,” in which he would sit for hours communing 
with plants and into which he never allowed a single book to penetrate. 

For his students at Tuskegee he made his lectures as simple and yet 
as thoroughgoing as possible. When the chancellor of the University of 
Georgia, W. B. Hill, came to Tuskegee to see for himself if it was true 
that a Negro professor was as brilliant as rumor had reported, he declared 
that Carver’s presentation on the problem of Southern agriculture was 
“the best lecture that it has ever been my privilege to attend.” Carver’s 
students were greatly impressed that each morning he would rise at four 
o’clock to walk in the woods before the start of the working day and 
bring back countless plants with which to illustrate his lectures. Explain¬ 
ing this habit to friends, Carver said, “Nature is the greatest teacher and 
I learn from her best when others are asleep. In the still dark hours 
before sunrise God tells me of the plans I am to fulfill.” 

For more than a decade Carver worked daily on experimental plots 
of soil trying to discover exactly how to change Alabama’s enthrallment 
by “ol’ debbil cotton.” On one nineteen-acre plot he put no commercial 
fertilizer, benefiting it instead with nothing but old dead leaves from the 
forest, rich muck from the swamps, and barnyard manure. The plot 
furnished such bountiful harvests of rotated crops that Carver came to 
the conclusion that “in Alabama the very fertilizers which existed in 

Wizard of Tuskegee 137 

almost unlimited supply were allowed to go to waste in favor of commer¬ 
cially sold products.” 

As a horticulturalist, Carver had noticed that the peanut was incredi¬ 
bly self-sufficient and could grow well in poor soil. As a chemist, he 
discovered that it equaled sirloin steaks in protein and potatoes in car¬ 
bohydrates. Late one evening while pondering the problem in his work¬ 
shop Carver stared at a peanut plant and asked, “Why did the Lord 
make you?” In a flash, he received the briefest of answers: “You have 
three things to go by: compatibility, temperature, and pressure.” 

With this slim advice Carver locked himself in his laboratory. There, 
throughout a sleepless week, he began breaking down the peanut into 
its chemical components and exposing them by trial and error to differ¬ 
ent conditions of temperature and pressure. To his satisfaction he found 
that one-third of the little nut was made up of seven different varieties 
of oil. Working round the clock, he analyzed and synthesized, took apart 
and recombined, broke down and built up the chemically differentiable 
parts of the peanut until at last he had two dozen bottles, each contain¬ 
ing a brand-new product. 

Leaving his laboratory, he convoked a meeting of farmers and agricul¬ 
tural specialists and showed them what he had been able to do in seven 
days and seven nights. He begged his audience to plow under the 
soil-destroying cotton and plant peanuts in its stead, assuring them that 
it would produce a cash crop far more valuable than its sole existing use 
as food for pigs might indicate. 

The audience was doubtful, the more so when Carver, asked to 
explain his methods, replied that he never groped for them but that they 
came to him in flashes of inspiration while walking in the woods. To allay 
their doubts he began to issue bulletins, one of which stated incredibly 
that rich, nutritious, and highly palatable butter could be made from the 
peanut, and that whereas it took one hundred pounds of dairy milk to 
make ten pounds of butter, a hundred pounds of peanuts could produce 
thirty-five pounds of peanut butter. Other bulletins showed how a cor¬ 
nucopia of products could also be extracted from the sweet potato, a 
tropical vine of which most Americans had never heard, that throve in 
the South's cotton-debased soil. When World War I broke out, and the 


shortage of dyestuffs presented itself as a serious national problem, 
Carver rambled at daybreak through the mist and dew, inquiring of his 
plant friends which of them could alleviate the deficit. From the leaves, 
roots, stems, and fruits of twenty-eight volunteers he coaxed 536 sepa¬ 
rate dyes, which could be used to color wool, cotton, linen, silk, and even 
leather, producing 49 of them from the scuppernong grape alone. 

At last his labors attracted national attention. When it was bruited 
that at Tuskegee Institute they were saving two hundred pounds of 
wheat per day by mixing two parts of ordinary flour with a new flour 
derived from sweet potatoes, a flock of dieticians and food writers inter¬ 
ested in cooperating with the wartime drive to economize on wheat 
came to investigate. They were served delicious breads made from the 
mixed flours, along with a sumptuous lunch of five courses each made 
from peanuts or sweet potatoes, or, like Carver’s “mock chicken,” from 
the two combined. The only other vegetables on the table were sheep 
sorrel, pepper grass, wild chicory, and dandelions, served as a salad to 
illustrate Carver s assertion that plants growing in nature were far better 
than those from which the natural vitality had been removed in cultiva¬ 
tion. The food experts, who realized that Carver’s contributions might 
go a long way to helping the war effort, rushed to telephone their papers, 
and Carver, who had become known to scientists the year before when 
he was elected a fellow of Great Britain’s famous Royal Society, now 
appeared in the headlines. 

Invited to Washington, Carver dazzled government officials with 
dozens of products, including a starch valuable to the textile industry 
which later became a component in the glue of billions of U.S. postage 

Next it came to Carver that peanut oil could help the atrophied 
muscles of polio victims. Results were so astonishing that he had to set 
aside one day each month to treat patients who came to his laboratory 
on stretchers, crutches, or canes. This feat remained as unheralded in 
medicine as the application of castor-oil packs, recommended about the 
same time by the “sleeping prophet,” Edgar Cayce, with which doctors 
of an intrepidly investigative frame of mind are only today beginning to 
achieve startling, and wholly inexplicable cures. 

Wizard of Tuskegee 139 

By 1930, the peanut’s one-time worthlessness had been converted, 
through Carver’s clairvoyance, into a quarter of a billion dollars for 
Southern farmers, and had created a huge industry. Peanut oil alone was 
valued at $60 million a year and peanut butter was establishing itself as 
one of the favorite foods of even the poorest American child. Not 
satisfied with his achievements, Carver went on to make paper from a 
local Southern pine tree which ultimately helped to spur lumberers to 
cover millions of Southern acres with productive forests where only 
scrub woods had existed. 

In the midst of the depression, Carver was again invited to Washing¬ 
ton to testify before the powerful Ways and Means Committee of the 
U.S. Senate, which was considering the Smoot-Hawley tariff bill de¬ 
signed to protect struggling American manufacturers. Dressed in his 
usual, seemingly eternally durable, two-dollar black suit, with an ever¬ 
present flower in its buttonhole and a home-made necktie, Carver, upon 
his arrival at Union Station, was rebuffed by a waiting porter who, when 
Carver asked him to help him with his bags and direct him to Congress, 
replied: ‘'Sorry, Pop, I ain’t got time for you now. I’m expecting an 
important colored scientist coming from Alabama.’’ Patiently Carver 
hefted his own bags to a taxi which took him to Capitol Hill. 

* Though the committee had accorded him no more than ten minutes 
to testify, when he began his presentations and took from his bag face 
powders, petroleum substitutes, shampoos, creosote, vinegar, wood- 
stains, and other samples of the countless creations concocted in his 
laboratories, the Vice President of the United States, testy “Cactus 
Jack” Garner from Texas, overruled protocol and told Carver he could 
have as much time as he liked because his demonstration was the best 
that he had ever seen presented to a Senate committee. 

In half a lifetime of research Carver, though he created fortunes for 
thousands, rarely took out a patent on any of his ideas. When practical- 
minded industrialists and politicians reminded him of the money he 
might have made had he only afforded himself this protection, he 
replied simply: “God did not charge me or you for making peanuts. Why 
should 1 profit from their products?” Like Bose, Carver believed that the 
fruit of his mind, however valuable, should be granted free of charge to 

140 pioneers of plant mysteries 

Thomas A. Edison told his associates that “Carver is worth a fortune” 
and backed up his statement by offering to employ the black chemist 
at an astronomically high salary. Carver turned down the offer. Henry 
Ford, who thought Carver “the greatest scientist living,” tried to get 
him to come to his River Rouge establishment, with an equal lack of 


Because of the strangely unaccountable source from which his magic 
with plant products sprang, his methods continued to be as wholly 
inscrutable as Burbank’s to scientists and to the general public. Visitors 
finding Carver puttering at his workbench amid a confusing clutter of 
molds, soils, plants, and insects were baffled by the utter and, to many 
of them, meaningless simplicity of his replies to their persistent pleas for 

him to reveal his secrets. 

To one puzzled interlocutor he said: “The secrets are in the plants. 

To elicit them you have to love them enough.” 

“But why do so few people have your power?” the man persisted. 

“Who besides you can do these things?” 

“Everyone can,” said Carver, “if only they believe it.” Tapping a 
large Bible on a table, he added, “The secrets are all here. In God's 
promises. These promises are real, as real as, and more infinitely solid 
and substantial than, this table which the materialist so thoroughly 

believes in.” 

In a celebrated public lecture, Carver related how he had been able 
to call forth from the low mountains of Alabama hundreds of natural 
colors from clays and other earths, including a rare pigment of deep blue 
which amazed Egyptologists, who saw rediscovered in it the blue color 
found in the tomb of Tutankhamen, as bright and fresh after so many 
centuries as it was when it had been first applied, 

When Carver was eighty or thereabouts—his exact date of birth 
never having been established since no records were kept for slave 
children—he addressed a meeting of chemists in New York as World 
War II was erupting in Europe. 

“The ideal chemist of the future,” said Carver, “will not be satisfied 
with humdrum day-to-day analysis, but is one who dares to think and 
work with an independence not permissible heretofore, unfolding before 
our eyes a veritable mystic maze of new and useful products from 

Wizard of Tuskegee HI 

material almost or quite beneath our feet and now considered of little 
or no value.” 

Not long before Carver's death a visitor to his laboratory saw him 
reach out his long sensitive fingers to a little flower on his workbench. 
“When I touch that flower/' he said rapturously, “I am touching infin¬ 
ity. It existed long before there were human beings on this earth and 
will continue to exist for millions of years to come. Through the flower, 
I talk to the Infinite, which is only a silent force. This'is not a physical 
contact. It is not in the earthquake, wind or fire. It is in the invisible 
world. It is that still small voice that calls up the fairies." 

He suddenly stopped and after a moment of reflection smiled at his 
visitor. "Many people know this instinctively,” he said, "and none better 
than Tennyson when he wrote: 

"Flower in the crannied wall, 

I pluck you out of the crannies, 

I hold you here, root and all, in my hand, 

Little flower—but if I could understand 
What you are, root and all, and all in all, 

I should know what God and man is.” 





The Harmonic Life of Plants 

The strangest experiment Charles Darwin ever performed on a plant was 
to sit before his Mimosa pudica, or touch-me-not, and play to if his 
bassoon in close enough proximity to see if he could stimulate its pinnae, 
or feathery leaflets, into movement. The experiment failed but was 
exotic enough to stimulate the renowned German plant physiologist 
Wilhelm PfefFer, author of the classic Handbuch der Pflanzenphysiolo - 
gie, into attempting, also unsuccessfully, to provoke stamens of Cynara- 
rea, a small genus of erect herbs, into response by means of sound. 

In 1950 when Professor Julian Huxley, the biologist grandson of 
Thomas Henry Huxley and brother of novelist Aldous, was visiting Dr. 

T. C. Singh, head of the department of botany at Annamalai University 
south of the Tamil-speaking city of Madras, he found his host studying 
through a microscope the live streaming of protoplasm in the cells of 
Hydrilla verticillata, an aquatic plant of Asian origin with long transpar¬ 
ent leaves. Aware of both Darwin’s and Pfeffer’s experiments, Huxley 
was struck by the idea that the magnification might be sufficient for his 
host to see if the streaming process could be affected by sound. 

Because the streaming of protoplasm in vegetation begins to speed 
up after sunrise, Singh placed an electrically operated tuning fork six feet 
from a Hydrilla , and microscopically observed that the fork’s note, 
broadcast for half an hour just before 6 a.m., caused the protoplasm to 
stream at a speed normally attained only much later in the day. 

Singh next asked his young assistant, Stella Ponniah, an accomplished 
dancer and violinist, if she would play notes on her instrument while 
standing near a Hydrilla. When the girl stroked her strings at a certain 
pitch, the protoplasm's streaming was again accelerated. 

Because the raga, a traditional form of South Indian devotional song, 
has a tonal system which can produce a deep religious feeling and 
specific emotions in a listener, Singh decided to try its tones on the 


■ Lord Krishna, the eighth and principal avatar and incarnation of the 
Hindu deity Vishnu, was reputed to have promoted with music enthrall¬ 
ing growth and bewitching verdure in Vrindavan, a city on the banks 
of the Jamuna River in north-central India long famous for its saint- 
musicians. Much later a courtier of the famous Moghul emperor Akbar 
is reported to have been able to perform such miracles with his songs 
as to bring on rain, light oil lamps, vernalize plants and induce them to 
blossom simply by intoning ragas at them. This appealing idea is 
confirmed in Tamil literature, which refers to the eyes, or buds, of sugar 
cane growing vigorously in response to the mellifluous buzzing of speck¬ 
led beetles and to the profuse oozing of sugary nectar from the golden 
flowers of Cassia fistula when serenaded with heart-melting melodies. 

Knowing this ancient lore, Singh asked his assistant to play the South 
Indian tune “Maya-malava-gauk raga ” to mimosas. After a fortnight, 
to Singh s intense excitement, he discovered that the number of stomata 


per unit area in the experimental plants was 66 percent higher, the 
epidermal walls were thicker, the palisade cells were longer and broader 
than in control plants, sometimes by as much as 50 percent. 

Encouraged to further experimentation, Singh requested Gouri 
Kumari, a lecturer at Annamalai's Music College, to play a raga known 
as the “Kara-hara-priya” to some balsam plants. Kumari, a virtuoso, 
played for twenty-five minutes each day, on a fretted lutelike instrument 
usually fitted with seven strings, the veena traditionally associated with 
Saraswati, goddess of wisdom. During the fifth week, the experimental 
balsams began to shoot ahead of their unserenaded neighbors and, at the 
end of December, had produced an average of 72 percent more leaves 
than the control plants, and had grown 20 percent higher. 

Singh then experimented on a vast number of species, such as com¬ 
mon asters, petunias, cosmos, and white spider lilies, along with such 
economic plants as onions, sesame, radishes, sweet potatoes, and tapioca. 

Each of these species Singh entertained for several weeks just before 
sunrise with more than half a dozen separate ragas, one per experiment, 
played on the flute, violin, harmonium, and veena; the music lasted a 
half hour daily, scaled at a high pitch, with frequencies between one 
hundred and six hundred cycles per second. From all this experimenta¬ 
tion Singh was able to state, in the magazine of the Bihar Agricultural 
College at Sabour, that he had “proven beyond any shadow of doubt 
that harmonic sound waves affect the growth, flowering, fruiting, and 
seed-yields of plants.” 

As a result of his success, Singh began wondering whether sound, 
properly prescribed, could spur field crops to greater yields. From 1960 
to 1963 he piped the “ Charukesi raga ” on a gramophone via a loud¬ 
speaker to six varieties of early, medium, and late paddy rice growing in 
the fields of seven villages located in the state of Madras and in Pondi¬ 
cherry on the Bay of Bengal, and got harvests ranging consistently from 
25 to 60 percent higher than the regional average. He also was able 
musically to provoke peanuts and chewing tobacco into producing nearly 
50 percent more than normal. Singh further reported that merely by 
dancing the ‘Bharata-Natyam, ” India's most ancient dance style, with¬ 
out musical accompaniment and executed by girls without trinkets on 

77ic Harmonic Life of Plants 147 

their ankles, the growth of Michaelmas daisies, marigolds, and petunias 
was very much accelerated, causing them to flower as much as a fort¬ 
night earlier than controls, presumably because of the rhythm of the 
footwork transmitted through the earth. 

Replying to a question which he thought would “naturally bristle up” 
in the minds of his readers, as to exactly what caused the effect on plants, 
Singh explained that in his laboratories he could visually demonstrate 
that the fundamental metabolic processes of plants in relation to transpi¬ 
ration and carbon assimilation under the excitation of musical sound or 
rhythmic beat were very much accelerated and increased over 200 per¬ 
cent compared to controls, “The stimulated plants/’ wrote Singh, “are 
energized to synthesize greater quantities of food during a given period 
of time, which naturally leads to greater yields.” Singh also reported that 
his method of musical stimulation has even increased the chromosome 
count of certain species of water plants and the nicotine content of 
tobacco leaves. 

Though the Indians of the subcontinent, both ancient and modern, 
appear to have been the first to produce a significant effect on plants 
with music or sound, they are by no means the only ones. In the 
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, suburb of Wauwatosa, a florist, Arthur Locker, 
began piping music into his greenhouses in the late 1950s. The differ¬ 
ence he observed in flower production before and after the broadcasts 
was sufficiently marked to convince Locker that music powerfully con¬ 
tributed to horticulture. “My plants grew straighter, germinated 
quicker, bloomed more abundantly,” he said. “The colors of the flowers 
were more striking to the eye, and the blooms lasted longer than usual. 

At about the same time a Canadian engineer and gentleman farmer, 
Eugene Canby, of Wainfleet, Ontario, broadcast the violin sonatas of 
Johann Sebastian Bach to a test plot of wheat and produced a crop not 
only 66 percent greater than average but with larger and heavier seeds. 
Since the wheat growing in those areas of the plot where the soil was 
inferior did just as well as those growing in the richest earth, it seemed 
to Canby that Bach's musical genius was as good as or better than 

In 1960 in the agricultural community of Normal, Illinois, a botanist 


and agricultural researcher, George E. Smith, learned of Singh’s experi¬ 
ments while chatting with the farm editor of his local newspaper. The 
following spring, Smith, somewhat skeptically, planted corn and soy¬ 
beans in flats and divided them between two identical greenhouses, both 
‘ kept precisely at the same level of temperature and humidity. In one of 
the greenhouses he installed a small record player, its speaker directed 
toward the experimental plants, and played George Gershwin's “Rhap¬ 
sody in Blue” twenty-four hours a day. According to Smith’s report to 
his employer, Mangelsdorf and Bros., Inc., wholesale field seed suppliers 
| in St. Louis, Missouri, the Gershwin-inspired seedlings sprouted earlier 
than those given the silent treatment, and their stems were thicker, 
tougher, and greener. 

Smith, still skeptical, was not satisfied with his subjective observa¬ 
tions. Removing ten corn and ten soybean plants from each of the 
greenhouses, he carefully cut them at ground level and immediately 
weighed them on apothecary scales. To his surprise the ten corn plants 
which had been enjoying Gershwin's music weighed 40 grams and those 
deprived of it only 28 grams; the corresponding soybean plants’ weights 
were 31 and 25 grams respectively. 

The following year Smith continuously broadcast music to a small plot 
of Embro 44XE hybrid corn from the day of its planting to harvest time. 
The plot produced 137 bushels to the acre as against only 117 bushels 
for an untreated plot of similar corn growing under the same conditions. 

■ Smith noted that the musically entertained corn also grew more rapidly 
and uniformly and silked earlier. The larger yield per acre was due not 
to an increase per plant but to a greater survival of plants in the plot. 
To make sure that his tests were not due to chance. Smith laid out four 
corn plots in 1962 planted not only with the same Embro 44XE but also 
with another highly prolific hybrid, Embro Departure. The first plot was 
i treated to the previous year's music, the second left silent, and the third 
and fourth offered only ear-splitting continuous notes, one with a high 
: pitch of 1,800 cycles a second, the other with a low pitch of 450. At 
harvest time the Departure plants stimulated with music produced 186 
* bushels per acre as against only 171 for the silent plot. But those exposed 

j to the high note outdid themselves to achieve nearly 198 bushels; those 

The Harmonic Life of Plants 149 

subjected to the low note topped 200. Gains for the Embro 44XE were 
less pronounced, though Smith had no idea why. 

Pressed by his neighbors from several counties around to explain his 
results, Smith speculated that sound energy might increase molecular 
activity in the corn, and added that thermometers placed in the plots 
indicated that soil temperature was inexplicably two degrees higher 
directly in front of the loudspeaker. Smith was perplexed that the edges 
of the leaves of those com plants growing in the slightly heated earth 
appeared a little burned, but thought this might be due to excessive 
exposure to musical vibrations. There were many unresolved mysteries, 
said Smith, one of whose Kansas friends had told him that high-fre¬ 
quency waves had been used successfully to control insects in stored 
wheat and that the same wheat planted later germinated faster than 
untreated grain. 

The frequencies on the so-called sonic spectrum, unlike those on the 
so-called electromagnetic spectrum, relate to vibrations in matter, the 
medium in which they travel, and result from the rate of its compression 
and expansion. Thus a sound wave can pass through air, water, and other 
fluids, an iron bar, a table top, a human being, or a plant. Because human 
ears can pick up only those frequencies from 16 to about 20,000 cycles 
per second, they are known as “audio,” or “sonic,” frequencies. Below 
them are inaudible subsonic frequencies, some of which result from 
pressure applied slowly, such as that produced with a hydraulic jack, 
which become so slow they are measured not in cycles per second but 
in seconds per cycle. Above them are ultrasonic frequencies also inaudi¬ 
ble to the human ear but affecting man’s being in a variety of ways which 
are not fully known. Extremely high frequencies on this spectrum, 
ranging from hundreds to thousands of millions of cycles per second, can 
be perceived as heat on the skin and are therefore termed “thermal,” 
though because they too cannot be audially detected could just as well 
be considered ultrasonic. 

After his experimentation was given publicity all over North America, 
Smith received a letter from Peter Belton of the research branch of 
Canada s Department of Agriculture, who informed him that he had 
broadcast ultrasonic waves to control the European corn-borer moth, 


whose larvae extensively damage growing corn. “At first we tested the 
hearing ability of this moth,” wrote Belton. “It was obvious that moths 
could hear sounds at about 50,000 cycles. These high-pitched sounds are 
much like those made by bats, the moth’s natural enemy. We planted 
two plots of corn, each ten feet by twenty, and divided them with sheets 
of plastic eight feet tall, capable of stopping this sound frequency. Then 
we broadcast the bat-like sound across two of the half-plots from dusk 
till dawn throughout the period the moths lay their eggs.” Belton in¬ 
formed Smith that nearly 50 percent of his ripe corn ears were damaged 
by larvae in the silent plots but only 5 percent suffered injury in the plots 
where the moths had supposedly suspected bats might be lurking. A 
careful count also revealed 60 percent fewer larvae in the sound plots, 
and the corn was three inches taller. 

In the mid-1960s the varied efforts of Singh and Smith aroused the 
curiosity of two researchers at Canada’s University of Ottawa, Mary 
Measures and Pearl Weinberger. Like L. George Lawrence, they were 
conversant with discoveries by Russians, Canadians, and Americans that 
ultrasonic frequencies markedly affect the germination and growth of 
barley, sunflower, spruce. Jack pine, Siberian pea tree, and other seeds 
and seedlings. The experiments indicated, albeit inexplicably, that en¬ 
zyme activity and respiration rates in plants and their seeds increased 
when they were stimulated by ultrasonic frequencies. However, the very 
frequencies which stimulated some plant species inhibited others. Mea¬ 
sures and Weinberger wondered whether specific audible frequencies in 
the sonic range would be as effective as music in enhancing the growth 
of wheat. 

In a series of experiments lasting more than four years, the two 
biologists exposed the grains and seedlings of spring Marquis and winter 
Rideau wheat to high-frequency vibrations. They found that, depending 
on how long the wheat seeds had been vernalized, the plants responded 
best to a frequency of 5,000 cycles a second. 

Baffled by their results, the two researchers could not explain why 
audible sound had resulted in accelerated growth so striking that it 
seemed to promise to double wheat harvests. The effect could not have 
been produced by breaking chemical bonds in the seeds, they wrote in 


The Harmonic Life of Plants 151 

the Canadian Journal of Botany , since, to do this, one billion times as 
much energy as was added by the sound frequencies would be required. 
Instead, they suggested that sound waves might produce a resonant 
effect in the plant cells, enabling the energy to accumulate and affect 
the plant’s metabolism. In the July, 1968, issue of Prevention magazine 
J, I. Rodale reported that Weinberger “is coming to believe that basic 
farm equipment of the future will include an oscillator for production 
of sound waves and a speaker.” 

Asked to confirm whether her experiments might result in application 
of sound to wheat seed planted in extended acreage, Dr. Weinberger 
stated in 1973 that large-scale tests were going forward in Canada, the 
United States, and Europe to determine the practicability of their idea. 

Weinberger’s observations are echoed by four scientists at the Univer¬ 
sity of North Carolina at Greensboro, who have discovered that experi¬ 
mental “pink” noise, which, at 20 to 20,000 cycles per second and 100 
decibels, sounds to the ear about the same as the noise received 100 feet 
away from a 727 jet plane about to take off, caused turnips to sprout 
much faster than those left silently in the ground. Professor Gaylord T. 
Hageseth, a physicist and leader of the research team, says that his 
findings have stirred up interest at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, 
.which is studying the team’s proposals to awaken seeds planted in hot 
regions such as California’s San Joaquin Valley, where temperatures 
ranging above 100 degrees Fahrenheit induce dormancy in lettuce seeds. 
If awakened by sound irradiation, lettuce might produce two crops per 
season instead of one, say Hageseth and his colleagues, who also suggest 
that sound waves could be used to make weeds germinate before a field 
is planted. The weeds could then be plowed under to allow a crop to 
grow in a weed-free field. 

Since broadcasting airport-level noise all over the countryside is hardly 
appealing, the North Carolina team has been working, like Measures 
and Weinberger, to find particular wavelengths or combinations to 
produce the desired effects at lower decibel levels. By the beginning of 
1973 they had discovered that the germination rate in turnips seemed 
to speed up when the turnips were exposed to a frequency of 4,000 cycles 
per second. 


An interesting and eventually very controversial series of experiments 
on the effects of music on plants began in 1968 when Dorothy Retallack, 
a professional organist and mezzo soprano, who gave concerts at Den¬ 
ver's Beacon Supper Club from 1947 to 1952, felt herself at loose ends 
when her eight children went off to college. Not to be the sole member 
of the family without a degree, Mrs. Retallack surprised her hard¬ 
working physician husband with the announcement of her own enroll¬ 
ment for a degree in music at Temple Buell College. Required to come 
up with a laboratory experiment in biology, Mrs. Retallack vaguely 
recalled reading an article about George Smith’s playing disc jockey to 

t his cornfields. 

Following Smith’s lead, Mrs. Retallack teamed with a fellow student, 
whose family provided an empty room at home and furnished two 
groups of plants, which included philodendron, corn, radishes, gerani¬ 
ums, and African violets. The neophyte experimenters suspended Gro- 
Lux lights over one group and played the taped musical notes B and D 
struck on the piano every second, alternating five minutes of those 
wearisomely repetitive sounds with five minutes of silence. The tape 
played continuously twelve hours a day. During the first week, the 
African violets, drooping at the start of the experiment, revived and 
began to flower. For ten days all the plants in the sound group seemed 
to thrive; but at the end of two weeks the geranium leaves began to 
yellow. By the end of the third week all the plants, some of which had 
been actually leaning away from the source of the sound as if blown by 
a strong wind, had died, with the unaccountable exception of the Afri¬ 
can violets, which somehow remained outwardly unaffected. The con¬ 
trol group, allowed to grow in peace, flourished. 

When she reported these results to her biology professor, Francis F. 
Broman, and asked if she could do a more elaborately controlled experi¬ 
ment for credit in his course, he reluctantly consented. “The idea made 
me groan a little,” said Broman afterward, “but it was novel and I 
; decided to okay it, even though most of the other students laughed out 

loud.” Broman made available to Dorothy Retallack three new Biotronic 
Mark III Environmental Chambers fifty-six feet long, twenty-six feet 
high, and eighteen feet deep, recently purchased by his department, 

The Harmonic Life of Plants 153 

similar in shape but much larger than home fish aquariums, which 
allowed for precise control of light, temperature, and humidity. 

Allotting one chamber for a control group, Mrs. Retallack used the 
same plants, with the exception of the violets, as in the first experiment, 
setting them in identical soil and affording them equal amounts of water 
on schedule. Trying to pinpoint the musical note most conducive to 
survival* each day she tried an F note, played unremittingly for eight 
hours in one chamber and three hours intermittently in another. In the 
first chamber her plants were stone dead within two weeks. In the 
second ‘chamber, the plants were much healthier than controls left in 

Mrs. Retallack and Professor Broman were nonplused by these results; 
for they had no idea what could be causing the disparate reactions, and 
could not help wondering whether the plants had succumbed to fatigue 
or boredom or had simply been “driven out of their minds.” The clear- 
cut experiments aroused ? spate of controversy in the biology depart¬ 
ment, with both students and professors either dismissing the whole 
effort as spurious, or intrigued by the inexplicable outcome. Two stu¬ 
dents, following Mrs. Retallack’s lead, ran an eight-week experiment on 
summer squashes, broadcasting music from two Denver radio stations 
into their chambers, one specializing in heavily accented jock, the other 
in classical music. 

The cucurbits were hardly indifferent to the two musical forms: those 
exposed to Haydn, Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, and other eighteenth- 
and nineteenth-century European scores grew toward the transistor 
radio, one of them even twining itself lovingly around it. The other 
squashes grew away from the rock broadcasts and even tried to climb 
the slippery walls of their glass cage. 

Impressed with her friends’ success, Mrs. Retallack ran a series of 
similar trials early in 1969 with corn, squash, petunias, zinnias, and 
marigolds; she noticed the same effect. The rock music caused some of 
the plants first to grow either abnormally tall and put out excessively 
small leaves, or remain stunted. Within a fortnight all the marigolds had 
died, but only six feet away identical marigolds, enjoying the classical 
strains, were flowering. More interestingly, Mrs. Retallack found that 
even during the first week the rock-stimulated plants were using much 


more water than the classically entertained vegetation, but apparently 
enjoying it less, since examination of the roots on the eighteenth day 
revealed that soil growth was sparse in the first group, averaging only 
about an inch, whereas in the second it was thick, tangled, and about 
four times as long. 

At this point, various critics sourly suggested that the experiments 
were invalid because such variables as sixty-cycle hum, the “white 
sound” heard from a radio tuned to a frequency not occupied by a radio 
transmitter, or the announcers’ voices emitted by the radio sets had not 
been taken into account. To satisfy these cavils, Mrs. Retallack taped 
rock music from records. She selected the extremely percussive rock 
renditions of Led Zeppelin, Vanilla Fudge, and Jimi Hendrix. When 
plants leaned away from this cacophony, Mrs. Retallack rotated all the 
pots 180 degrees, only to see the plants lean in the opposite direction. 
This convinced the majority of critics that the plants were definitely 
reacting to the sounds of rock music. 

Trying to determine what it was about rock that so jarred her plants, 
Mrs. Retallack guessed that it might be the percussive component in the 
music and started yet another experiment in the fall. Selecting the 
familiar Spanish tune “La Paloma,” she played one version of it per¬ 
formed on steel drums to one chamber of plants and another version 
played on strings to a second. The percussion caused a lean ten degrees 
away from the vertical in Mrs. Retallack’s plants, but nothing compared 
to the rock. The plants listening to the fiddles leaned fifteen degrees 
toward the source of the music. An eighteen-day repeat of the same 
experiment using twenty-five plants per chamber including squash from 
seed and flowering and leaf-type plants from greenhouses produced 
largely similar results. 

Now Mrs. Retallack wondered how the effects of what she called 
“intellectual mathematically sophisticated music of both East and 
West” would appeal to plants. As program director for the American 
Guild of Organists, she chose choral preludes from Johann Sebastian 
Bach’s Orgelbiichlein and the classical strains of the sitar, a less-com¬ 
plicated Hindustani version of the south Indian veena, played by Ravi 
Shankar, the Bengali Brahmin. 

The plants gave positive evidence of liking Bach, since they leaned 

Harmonic Life of Plants 1SS 

an unprecedented thirty-five degrees toward the preludes. But even this 
affirmation was far exceeded by their reaction to Shankar: in their 
straining to reach the source of the classical Indian music they bent 
more than halfway to the horizontal, at angles in excess of sixty degrees, 
the nearest one almost embracing the speaker. 

In order not to be swayed by her own special taste for the classical 
music of both hemispheres Mrs. Retallack, at the behest of hundreds 
of young people, followed Bach and Shankar with trials of folk and 
country-western” music. Her plants seemed to produce no more reac¬ 
tion than those in the silent chamber. Perplexed, Mrs. Retallack could 
only ask: “Were the plants in complete harmony with this kind of earthy 
music or didn't they care one way or the other?” 

Jazz caused her a real surprise. When her plants heard recordings as 
varied as Duke Ellington s “Soul Call” and two discs by Louis Arm¬ 
strong, 5 5 percent of the plants leaned fifteen to twenty degrees toward 
the speaker, and growth was more abundant than in the silent chamber. 
Mrs. Retallack also determined that these different musical styles 
markedly affected the evaporation rate of distilled water inside the 
chambers. From full beakers, fourteen to seventeen milliliters evapo¬ 
rated over a given time period in the silent chambers, twenty to twenty- 
five milliliters vaporized under the influence of Bach, Shankar, and jazz; 
but, with rock, the disappearance was fifty-five to fifty-nine milliliters. 

When the office of public information at Temple Buell got wind that 
Mrs. Retallack was the first grandmother ever to be graduated from its 
college, it informed Olga Curtis, a reporter on the Denver Post, about 
her extraordinary doings with plants. Mrs. Retallack set up a brand-new 
experiment for Curtis in which she compared the effects of rock with 
that of string quartets by such twentieth-century composers as Schoen¬ 
berg, Webern, and Berg. The point of choosing the largely twelve-tone 
music of these neo-classicists was to see whether its dissonances, like 
those of rock, would also cause the plants to cringe. They did not. Root 
examination showed that the specimens in the rock chamber were 

scrawny, whereas those subjected to the avant-garde music were compa¬ 
rable to control plants. 

On June 21, 1970, the Post s weekend supplement Empire Magazine 


came out with a color-illustrated four-page spread entitled “Music That 
Kills Plants,” which won for Curtis an annual award by the National 
Federation of Press Women. Syndicated by Metro Sunday Newspapers, 
the piece appeared all over the United States, spawning a new genera¬ 
tion of articles with such titles as “Bach or Rock: Ask Your Flowers/’ 
“Mother Is Knitting Earmuffs for Our Petunias,” and more alarmingly, 
“It Shouldn’t Happen to Teenagers.” Tying rock music to the prolifera¬ 
tion of drugs among American youth, one writer for the popular right- 
wing Christian Crusade Weekly sanctimoniously wrote: “The Scripture 
admonishes the sluggard to go to the ant! Perhaps the druggard should 
go to the plant!” 

From an avalanche of mail Mrs. Retallack learned that her experi¬ 
ments had elicited the interest of hundreds of readers, including a passel 
of professors who asked for her published scientific works. Spurred by 
the unsolicited interest, Retallack, together with Professor Broman, 
prepared a nine-page scientific paper, “Response of Growing Plants to 
a Manipulation of Their Sonic Environment,” and sent it in to Bio- 
Science Magazine, published by the American Institute of Biological 
Sciences. They received a turndown, in the form of a review by Dr. 
Robert S. Leisner, stating that though one could draw a “highly tenta¬ 
tive” conclusion that sound affects plant growth, the Retallack-Broman 
conclusions were hardly novel in light of the earlier work of Weinberger 
and Measures in Ottawa. 

Meanwhile, Mrs. Retallack was called by CBS television and asked 
to set up a Rock-versus-Shankar experiment for filming with time-lapse 
cameras. Almost sick with nervousness lest her charges not deliver their 
message for the CBS technicians, Mrs. Retallack was relieved when the 
plants performed as if they knew they were scheduled for a nationwide 
broadcast. Aired on Walter Cronkite’s newscast on October 16, 1970, 
the program added another enormous pile to her correspondence, which 
included a number of reports which researchers around the country 
wanted to share with her. 

From them Dorothy Retallack learned that two North Carolina State 
University professors, L. H. Royster, of the Department of Mechanical 
and Aerospace Engineering, and B. H. Huang, of the Department of 

The Harmonic Life of Plants 157 

Biological Engineering, had teamed with C. B. Woodlief, a researcher 
at Fiber Industries in the town of Shelby, to perform an experiment 
written up in the Journal of the Acoustical Society of America as “Effect 
of Random Noise on Plant Growth.” The threesome, who realized that 
the effects of proliferating noise pollution on animals and man had been 
studied but that similar effects on plant systems had been overlooked, 
put twelve male sterile tobacco plants into an environmental control 
chamber with constant soil and temperature conditions. From a Bruel 
and Kraer random-noise generator they harried the plants with noise 
frequencies ranging from 31.5 to 20,000 cycles per second and con¬ 
cluded that growth rate in each plant decreased 40 percent. 

Another correspondent was Dr. George Milstein, of Long Island City, 
New York, a retired dental surgeon turned teacher of horticulture at the 
New York Botanical Garden. After some of his patients had presented 
him with exotic plants the names of which no florist could be sure of, 
Milstein had dipped into botanical sources, become fascinated with the 
vegetal world, and begun growing exotic and colorful Bromeliads, an 
extended plant family which includes specimens as diverse as the pineap¬ 
ple and Spanish moss. 

Learning of the Canadian research on wheat, he decided to see how 
sopics would affect other plants. Selecting a wide variety of house plants 
and two bananas, he subjected them to sonic vibrations delivered di¬ 
rectly through the air or transduced through the soil of their pots or 
through their stems. Assisted by an NBC sound engineer, Milstein 
found that a continuous low hum at 3,000 cycles per second accelerated 
the growth of most of his subjects and even caused some of them to 
bloom six full months ahead of their normal schedule. 

When Pip Records, a division of Pickwick International, Inc., asked 
him to make a record of stimulatory sounds for plants, it insisted that 
the record also contain music. Milstein accordingly embedded the 
stimulating hum in the record’s musical selections. In an insert in the 
disc’s jacket, “Growing Plants Successfully in the Home,” Milstein, 
after giving precise information on the best kind of light, humidity, 
ventilation, temperature, watering, fertilizer, and pots, stated that just 
as all plant growth and flower development are stimulated by light 


vibrations, so it is logical to assume that the vibrations of sound energy 
can also exert a beneficial influence on horticulture. Milstein recom¬ 
mended that for best results the record be played daily. 

When the record attracted attention in the United States and other 
countries, Milstein was pestered in the mail and over the telephone by 
hundreds of persons who wanted to know what kind of music best suited 
plants, and whether his research accorded with that of Dorothy Retal- 
lack and tied in with that of Cleve Backster. Milstein blew up. Mrs. 
Retallack’s experiments, he says, have nothing to do with science, since 
“plants can't hear.” Appalled at what he calls the total fakery of compar¬ 
ing plants to people, and disgusted at the “dishonesty” on the part of 
those promoting the record, he says he is tired of the repeated allegations 
that he used music to enhance plant growth. 

Asked to comment on Cleve Backster’s work, the dentist turned 
horticulturist said: “Backster must be, at best, self-deluded since no one 
who has studied botany or physiology could ever agree that plants, whose 
tissues differ completely from those of animals and man, have minds or 
emotions and can be frightened by a mental threat.” 

As secretary of the Society of American Magicians, Milstein, who 
performed magic to work his way through college, said he had investi¬ 
gated hundreds of so-called “psychic phenomena” and never found a 
case in which the person claiming a given psychic power could perform 
under test conditions. “At least Backster isn’t collecting money the way 
some other charlatans are,” said Milstein, “but I don’t want any part 
of his research because everything he says he has discovered can be 

Milstein’s dogmatic statement was paralleled by those of various 
professors at Temple Buell. The New York Times , which published a 
feature article on Mrs. Retallack’s work on February 21, 1971, stated 
that the academicians seemed to “cringe and die” quite as much as 
Dorothy Retallack's acid-rock-exposed plants when it was suggested to 
them that Backster could be serious. “They find the whole thing an 
excruciating embarrassment,” the Times stated, then quoted one of the 
college’s own biologists as saying, “We have been ridiculed profession¬ 
ally.” Dr. Cleon Ross, a plant physiologist at Colorado State University, 

The Harmonic Life of Plants 159 

though he reluctantly agreed to discuss the subject of the effect of sonic 
energy on plants with the Times reporter, Anthony Ripley, when asked 
to comment on Backster’s discovery that plants respond to human 

thought, only blurted out: “Pure garbage!” 

At Utah State University, Dr. Frank B. Salisbury of the Plant Science 
Department was a bit kinder. “1 don’t know what to make of it all, 
protested the professor about the effect of music on plants. “It’s been 
going on since 1950. There was a report at the 1954 International 
Botanical Congress by a man from India who played violins to plants. 

I hate to just out-and-out say it’s all baloney, but there’s been an awful 
lot of pseudo-science in this field for years. Most of this stuff just doesn’t 
have the right kind of experimentation. Until that comes along I don’t 
believe any of it” 

Her own unequivocal results caused Mrs. Retallack to wonder 
whether the nationwide craze for acid rock among the younger genera¬ 
tion might not be deleterious to their development. Her doubts about 
the effects of rock increased when she read an article in the Napa, 
California, Register stating that two doctors had reported to the Cali¬ 
fornia Medical Association that of forty-three musicians playing am¬ 
plified hard-rock music forty-one had suffered permanent hearing loss. 

Some of Denver’s rock buffs also seemed deeply impressed by Mrs. 
Retallack’s experiments. One long-haired musician, peering into the 
rock-suffused biotronic chamber, said to her: “If rock is doing that to 
plants, man, I wonder what it’s doing to me?” Mrs. Retallack wants to 
continue her experiments in order to collect enough scientific data to 
give the young musician a reasoned answer. One test she envisions will 
involve playing musical tapes backward to see if they produce effects 
similar to or different from the same tapes played in the normal direc¬ 

When she began writing a short book on her experiments. The Sound 
of Music and Plants, published in early 1973, Mrs. Retallack was in¬ 
spired with a line from Oscar Hammerstein she had sung years before 
as the star of The Sound of Music in Denver’s summer opera: “The hills 
are alive with the sound of music, with songs they have sung for a 
thousand years.” 


Delving in libraries to find material with which to give a philosophical 
underpinning to her experimental work, she came across a declaration 
in the Book of the Secrets of Enoch that everything in the universe, from 
the herbs of the field to the stars of the heavens, had its individual spirit 
or angel, and noted that Hermes Trismegistus was reputed to have 
stated that plants had lives, minds, and souls, even as did animals, men, 
and higher beings. Hermes, named “thrice greatest by the Greeks and 
from whose name the word “hermetic” is derived, was regarded as the 
originator of Egyptian art, science, magic, alchemy, and religion. 

That musical sound lies within the very hearts of atoms is the conten¬ 
tion of a professor of chemistry, now retired after a long career at Johns 
Hopkins University, Donald Hatch Andrews. In his book, The Sym¬ 
phony of Life , Andrews invites readers to join him on an imaginary 
journey inside a magnified calcium atom taken from the bone beneath 
the tip of his forefinger. Inside the atom, says Andrews, there are shrill 
tones dozens of octaves above the highest tones of a violin, the music 
of the atomic nucleus, the tiny particle at the center of the atom. If one 
listens closely, he continues, one is aware that this music is far more 
complex than familiar church music. There are many dissonant chords 
like those found in the music of today’s modern composers. 

The whole purpose of dissonant music, according to Cyril Meir Scott, 
the English composer and theosophist, was to break up thought forms, 
which, settling over whole countries and people, turn them stagnant 
with lethargy or rampant with madness. It is an occult musical fact, says 
Scott, that discord—used in its moral sense—can alone be destroyed by 
discord, the reason for this being that the vibrations of intrinsically 
beautiful music are too rarefied to touch the comparatively coarse vibra¬ 
tions of all that pertains to a much lower plane, 

So far, no researcher with the exception of Hans Kayser, the German 
author of Harmonia Plantarum and other mathematically learned books 
on the relation of sound intervals to the growth of plants, seems to have 
become interested in the octaval correspondences between the shapes 
of plants and musical notes. Kayser observed that if one projects all tones 
within the space of one octave—in the same manner that the astrono¬ 
mer and astrologer Johannes Kepler worked out in his Harmonice Mundi 

The Harmonic Life of Plants 161 

for the solar planetary system—and sketches their angles in a specific 
way, one obtains the prototype of leaf form. The interval of the octave, 
the basis for music making and indeed all sensation, thus contains within 
itself the form of the leaf. 

Not only does this observation lend new “psychological” support to 
Goethe’s metamorphosis of plants, which derive their development 
from the leaf form, but it casts new light on the ingenious classificatory 
system developed by Linnaeus. When one considers, says Kayser, that 
a passion flower contains two ratios, a /ive-part petal and stamen arrange¬ 
ment and a three-pait pistil, even if one rejects a logically reasoning 
intelligence, one must admit that in the soul of plants are certain 
form-carrying prototypes—in the passion flower’s case musical thirds 
and fifths—which work, as in music, to shape the blossom forms as 
intervals. It is from this point of view that Linnaeus’ system acquires a 
“psychic” rehabilitation, concludes Kayser, for, with his “sexual classifi¬ 
cation scheme, the famous Swedish botanist hit on the psychic nerve of 

What humans are able to perceive consciously with their limited 
senses is but a minute fraction of what vibrationally affects them. The 
so-called scentless daisy may be as sweet-smelling as the rose—if people 
had the olfactory ability to detect the particles the daisy throws off. 


Efforts to prove that a given sonic vibration will affect plants or man 
may, far from resolving the interaction of music and life, be only unravel¬ 
ing a wondrously resonating tapestry of influences into its separate, 
unrelated threads. 


Just as plants respond to the wavelengths of music, so also are they 
continually being affected by wavelengths of the electromagnetic spec¬ 
trum, from earth, moon, planets, cosmos and from a proliferation of 
man-made devices; only it remains to be established exactly which are 
beneficial and which are harmful. 

One evening in the late 1720s a French writer and astronomer, 
Jean-Jacques Dertous de Mairan, was watering a series of pet Mimosa 
pudica in his Paris drawing room when he noticed to his surprise that 
the disappearance of the sun appeared to be causing the sensitive plants 
to fold their leaves just as they did when touched by his hand. A true 

searcher, esteemed by his contemporary Voltaire, Mairan did not in¬ 
stantly conclude that his plants were “simply going to sleep” as darkness 
fell. Instead he waited for the sun to rise again and put two of the 
mimosas in a pitch-dark closet. At noon he noticed that their leaves 
remained wide open; but at sunset they shut just as promptly as the ones 
on the drawing-room table. The plants, concluded Mairan, must be able 

to “sense” the sun without “seeing” it. 

As to the cause of this effect, Mairan—whose scientific investigations 
ranged from the rotational movement of the moon and the physical 
properties of the aurora borealis to the reason for light in phosphors and 
the peculiarities of the number 9—could offer no solution. In his report 
to the French Academy he lamely suggested that his plants must be 
under the influence of an unknown factor in the universe, and that 
because hospitalized patients seemed to get extremely weak at certain 
times they too might be subject to the same force. 

Some two and a half centuries later, Dr. John Ott, who runs the 
Environmental Health and Light Research Institute at Sarasota, 
Florida, was struck by Mairan’s observations, which he was able to 
confirm, and wondered if this “unknown energy” could penetrate a 

massive amount of earth, the only shield known to be able to block 


so-called “cosmic radiation.” 

Ott took six mimosa plants down a mine shaft at noon to a point 650 
feet beneath the earth’s surface. Unlike those in the dark of Mairan’s 
closet, Ott’s subterranean specimens immediately closed their leaves 
without waiting for sunset; they did so even when incandescent bulbs 
were lit all around them. Except for the fact that he related the phe¬ 
nomenon to electromagnetism, of which little was known in Mairan s 
time, Ott was as much in the dark about the cause of it as had been his 
eighteenth-century French predecessor. 

Mairan’s contemporaries had known about electricity only what the 
Hellenes had passed on to them concerning the properties of amber, or 
electron, as they called it, which when vigorously rubbed attracted a 
feather or a piece of straw. Before Aristotle, it had been known that 
lodestone, a black ferrous oxide, could also exert an equally inexplicable 
attraction on iron filings. Since this material was found in liberal quanti- 


ties in a region of Asia Minor called Magnesia, it was dubbed magnes 
Uthos , or magnesian stone, a term shortened to magnes in Latin and to 
magnet in English. 

First to link electricity and magnetism was the sixteenth-century 
savant William Gilbert, whose medical skill and philosophical erudition 
won him appointment as personal physician to Queen Elizabeth I. 
Announcing that the planet itself was a globular magnet, Gilbert at¬ 
tributed to the lodestone a “soul,” since it was “part and choice offspring 
of its animate mother, the earth.” Gilbert also discovered that materials 
other than amber could be caused to attract light objects if friction was 
applied to them. He designated them “electrics” and coined the term 

“electric force.” 

For centuries the attractive forces in amber and lodestone were 
thought to be “penetrating etheric fluids” (whatever they might be), 
emitted by the substances, Even fifty years after Mairan’s experiments, 
Joseph Priestley, known principally as the discoverer of oxygen, wrote 
in his popular textbook on electricity: 

The earth and all the bodies we are acquainted with, without exception, 
are supposed to contain a certain quantity of an exceedingly elastic and 
subtle fluid which philosophers have agreed to term electric. The moment 
any body becomes possessed of more or less than its natural quantity, very 
remarkable effects arise from it. The body is said to be electrified and is 
capable of exhibiting appearances which are ascribed to the power of 

By the twentieth century real knowledge about magnetism had pro¬ 
gressed very little. As Professor Silvanus Thompson stated in his Robert 
Boyle lecture just before World War I, “Those occult qualities of mag¬ 
netism which for centuries have excited the admiration of mankind are 
still occult, not in the sense only that they need to be investigated by 
experiment, but that their ultimate cause still remains unexplained.” In 
a text published right after World War II by Chicago’s Museum of 
Science and Industry, it is stated that human beings still do not know 
why the earth is a magnet, how magnetic materials can be mechanically 
affected by other magnets at a distance from them, why electric currents 
have magnetic fields about them, or even why tiny atoms of matter, 

Plants and Electromagnetism 165 

small as they are, occupy such empty but prodigious volumes of energy- 
packed space. 

In the three and one half centuries since Gilbert's famous work De 
Magnete was published, many theories have been proposed to explain 
the origin of geomagnetism but none is satisfactory. 

The same can be said for contemporary physics, which has substituted 
for the idea of an “etheric fluid" a spectrum of undulating radiations 
called “electromagnetic radiations," ranging from enormous macropul¬ 
sations, lasting several hundred thousand years each, with wavelengths 
millions of miles long, to super-rapid energy pulses alternating 
10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 times a second, with wavelengths mea¬ 
suring an infinitesimal ten billionths of a centimeter. The first type are 
associated with such phenomena as the reversal of the earth's magnetic 
field, the second with the collision of atoms, usually those of helium and 
hydrogen, moving at incredibly high speeds and converted to radiant 
energy termed “cosmic rays." In between lie countless bands of energy 
waves, including gamma rays, originating in the nuclei of atoms; X-rays, 
originating in their shells; a collection of frequencies which because they 
can be perceived with the eye are called light; those used in radio, TV, 
radar, and a growing multitude of applications from space research to 
electronic cooking. 

The electromagnetic waves differ from sound waves in that they can 
travel not only through matter but through “nothing,” racing at a speed 
of 186 million miles per second through vast regions of the cosmos 
which previously was thought to contain a medium called “ether" but 
is now held to be almost a perfect vacuum. But no one has yet explained 
exactly how they travel. As one eniment physicist complained to the 
authors, “We just don't know the mechanism for the damn thing." 

In 1747, fean Antoine Nollet, a French abbot and physics tutor to 
the dauphin, was informed by a German physicist in Wittenberg that 
water, which normally issued drop by drop from a capillary tube, would 
run out in a constant stream if the tube was electrified. After repeating 
the German’s experiments and adding some of his own, Nollet, as he 
later put it, “began to believe that this electrical virtue employed in a 
certain manner might have some remarkable effect on organized bodies 


which can be looked upon, in some way, as hydraulic machines prepared 
by nature itself." Nollet put several plants in metallic pots next to a 
conductor and was intrigued to note that the rate of their transpiration 
increased. In a long series of experiments, Nollet carefully weighed not 
only daffodils but sparrows, pigeons, and cats and found they lost weight 
faster if electrified. 

Wondering how electrical phenomena might influence seeds, Nollet 
planted several dozen mustard grains in two tin containers and elec¬ 
trified one of them from 7 to 10 a m. and from 3 to 8 p.m. seven days 
running. At the end of the week, every grain in the electrified container 
had sprouted and grown to an average height of 15 to 16 French lignes; 
the ligne is an old French measure, the twelfth part of an inch, or about 
2.25 millimeters. Of the nonelectrified seeds the three which had broken 
ground were only 2 to 3 lignes tall. Though he had no idea why, Nollet 
could only suggest in his book-long report to the French Academy that 
electricity somehow had profound effects on the growth functions of life 

Nollet’s conclusion was formulated a few years before the announce¬ 
ment rocked Europe that Benjamin Franklin had been able to collect 
a charge of electricity from lightning by flying a kite during stormy 
weather outside Philadelphia. When the bolt struck a metal point on the 
kite’s frame, it had run down the kite's wet string into a Leyden bottle, 
a device developed in 1746 at the University of Leyden, whereby elec¬ 
tricity could be stored in water and discharged in a single sudden burst. 
Theretofore, only static electricity obtained with an electrostatic genera¬ 
tor had been storable in a Leyden jar. 

As Franklin was now collecting electricity from clouds, the brilliant 
astronomer Pierre Charles Lemonnier, who was admitted to the French 
Academy at twenty-one and later acclaimed for his discovery of the 
obliquity of the ecliptic, determined that a permanent state of electrical 
activity exists in the earth’s atmosphere even on a clear and sunny day, 
but exactly how the omnipresent charges interact with plants remained 
veiled in mystery. 

The next efforts to adapt atmospheric electricity to the fructification 
of plants came in Italy. In 1770 a Professor Gardini stretched a number 

Plants and Electromagnetism 167 

of wires above a productive monastery garden in Turin. Within a short 
time, many of the plants began to wither and die. When the monks 
dismantled the wires, the garden revived. Gardini hypothesized that 
either the plants had been deprived of a natural supply of electricity 
necessary to their growth or that they had received an overdose. When 
Gardini heard from France that the brothers Joseph-Michel and 
Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier had sent aloft an enormous balloon filled 
with heated air to carry two passengers on a ten-kilometer, twenty-five- 
minute trip over Paris, he recommended that this new invention be 
practically applied to horticulture by attaching a long wire to it along 
which electricity could be conducted from great heights into fields and 
gardens below. 

These French and Italian reports caused little stir among the scientific 
pundits of the day, who, even then, were beginning to pay more atten¬ 
tion to the effects of electricity on inert, rather than on living, bodies. 
Nor were they impressed when yet another clergyman, Abbe Bertholon, 
came out in 1783 with a full-scale treatise, De I’Electricite des Vegctaux. 
A professor of experimental physics at French and Spanish universities, 
Bertholon gave strong support to Noilet’s idea that by altering the 
viscosity, or flow resistance, of fluids in living organisms electricity could 
change their growth functions. He cited the report of an Italian physi¬ 
cist, Giuseppe Toaldo, that in a row of jasmine bushes the two which 
were next to a lightning conductor grew thirty feet tall whereas all the 
others attained only four feet. 

Bertholon, who was considered something of a sorcerer, had a gar¬ 
dener stand on a slab of insulating material and sprinkle vegetables from 
an electrified watering can, He reported that his salads grew to an 
extraordinary size. He also invented what he called an “electrovegetome- 
ter” to collect atmospheric electricity by means of an antenna, and pass 
it through plants growing in a field. “This instrument,” he wrote, is 
applicable to all kinds of vegetal production, everywhere, in all weather; 
and its utility and efficacity cannot be ignored or doubted except by 
timid souls who are not inspired by discoveries and who will never push 
back the barriers of the sciences but will remain eternally within the 
narrow confines of a cowardly pusillanimity which, to palliate it, is too 


often given the name of prudence.” In his conclusion, the abbot boldly 
suggested that one day the best fertilizer for plants would come in 

electrical form “free from the sky. 

The exciting notion that living things interacted and indeed were 

imbued with electricity advanced a giant step in November, 1780, when 
the wife of a Bolognese scientist, Luigi Galvani, accidentally discovered 
that a machine used to generate static electricity caused the severed leg 
of a frog to jump spasmodically. When his attention was called to it, 
Galvani was surprised and instantly wondered whether electricity was 
not in fact a manifestation of life. Deciding on Christmas Day that it 
was, he wrote in his workbook: “The electrical fluid should be considered 

a means to excite nervo-muscular force.” 

For the next six years Galvani worked on the effects on muscular 

motion of electricity until he happened accidentally to discover that his 
frogs' legs would twitch just as well without the application of an electric 
charge if the copper wires they hung from were blown by the wind 
against an iron railing. Realizing that the electricity in the three-part 
circuit had to be coming from the legs or the metals, Galvani, who 
believed it to be a living rather than a dead force, decided it was 
associated with the animal tissue and ascribed the reaction to a vital fluid 
or energy in the frogs' bodies which he termed animal electricity. 

Galvani's findings at first received warm support from his compatriot 
Alessandro Volta, a physicist at the University of Pavia in the Duchy 
of Milan. But when Volta repeated Galvani’s experiments and found he 
could elicit the electrical effect only when two different metals were 
used, he wrote to Abbot Tommaselli that it was obvious that the elec¬ 
tricity came, not from the frog’s legs, but from “the simple application 
of two metals of different quality.” Concentrating on the electrical 
properties of metals, Volta was led in 1800 to the invention of a pile of 
alternating zinc and copper discs with a piece of wet paper sandwiched 
between each two layers. Instantly chargeable, it could be used to pro¬ 
duce electric current at will, not only once, like the Leyden jar, but 
thousands of times, and thus for the first time researchers were freed 
from their dependence on static or natural electricity. This first ancestor 
of our electric storage cell disclosed an artificial dynamic or kinetic 

Plants and Electromagnetism 169 

electricity, which all but obliterated Galvani’s notion of a special vital 
energy in living tissues. 

Though at first Volta had accepted Galvani's findings, he later wrote: 
“If we deprive animal organs of any electrical activity of their own and 
abandon this attractive idea which Galvani’s beautiful experiments sug¬ 
gested, these organs can be regarded simply as electrometers of a new 
kind and of a marvelous sensitivity.” Despite Galvani’s prophetic asser¬ 
tion, just before his death, that one day the analysis of all the necessary 
physiological aspects of his experiments “would provide better knowl¬ 
edge of the nature of the life forces, their different duration, according 
to variations in sex, age, temperament, illnesses, and even the very 
constitution of the atmosphere,” scientists neglected his theories and 
denied them in practice. 

A few years earlier, unknown to Galvani, the Hungarian Jesuit Max¬ 
imilian Hell had revived Gilbert’s idea of “soul-like” characteristics in 
the lodestone being transmitted to ferrous metals; and with this idea had 
invented a singular arrangement of magnetized steel plates to cure his 
own persistent rheumatism. His friend the Viennese physician Franz 
Anton Mesmer, who picked up an interest in magnetism by reading 
Paracelsus, was impressed with Hell’s subsequent cures of a variety of 
afflictions in others, and embarked on a long series of experiments to 
check them. In so doing Mesmer became convinced that living matter 
had a property susceptible to being acted upon by “earthly and celestial 
magnetic forces,” which in 1779 he called “animal magnetism” and to 
which he devoted a doctoral thesis entitled “The Influence of the 
Planets on the Human Body.” Learning that a Swiss priest, J. J. Gassner, 
was healing patients by touch, Mesmer successfully adopted Gassner's 
technique and proclaimed that some people, himself included, were 
better endowed with the “magnetic” force than others. 

Though it seemed that these startling discoveries of bioelectrical and 
biomagnetic energy might open the door to a new age of research which 
could unite physics with medicine and physiology, the door was again 
slammed shut for more than a century. Mesmer’s success in treating 
cases, where others had failed, provoked his Viennese medical colleagues 
to jealousy. Attributing his cures to witchcraft and the devil, they orga- 


nized a commission to investigate his claims. When the commission 
reported unfavorably, Mesmer was expelled from the medical faculty 
and told to give up his practice. 

Moving in 1778 to Paris, where he found “people more enlightened 
and less indifferent to new discoveries,” he made a powerful convert to 
his new methods of Charles D’Eslon, first physician to the court of the 
brother of Louis XVI, who introduced Mesmer to influential circles. It 
was not long before the French physicians grew as angry and jealous as 
had their Austrian counterparts. Their clamor forced the king to appoint 
a royal commission to investigate Mesmer’s claims, despite the fact that 
D’Eslon at a meeting of the medical faculty of the University of Paris 
had championed Mesmer’s scientific contribution as “one of the most 
important of our age.” When the commission, whose members included 
the director of the French Academy of Sciences—which in 1772 had 
solemnly ruled that meteorites did not exist—and whose chairman was 
the American ambassador, Benjamin Franklin, returned a verdict that 
“animal magnetism is nonexistent and can have no salubrious effect, 
Mesmer’s great popularity, held up to public ridicule, began to wane. 
Retiring to Switzerland, he completed, one year before his death in 
1815, his most important work: Mesmerism or the System of Reciprocal 
Influences; or The Theory and Practice of Animal Magnetism . 

In 1820; Hans Christian Oersted, a Danish scientist, found that a 
compass needle placed near a current-carrying wire always turned so that 
the needle became perpendicular to the wire. When the current was 
reversed, the compass needle pointed in the opposite direction. The fact 
that a force could act on the compass needle indicated that a magnetic 
field existed in the space around the wire. This led to one of the most 
profitable discoveries in the history of science when Michael Faraday in 
England and Joseph Henry in the United States independently realized 
the opposite phenomenon was equally valid, that a magnetic field could 
induce an electric current if the wire were moved through it. Thus the 
“generator” was invented, and with it a whole new world of electrical 


Today, books on what man can do with electricity fill seventeen 
100-foot shelves of stacks in the Library of Congress, but what electricity 

Plants and Electromagnetism 171 

is and why it functions are as much a mystery as they were in Priestley’s 
day. Modern scientists still have no idea of the composition of electro¬ 
magnetic waves. They simply use them for radio, radar, television and 

Because of such a lopsided concentration on the mechanical proper¬ 
ties of electromagnetism, only a corporal’s guard of individuals has paid 
attention over the years to how and why electromagnetism might affect 
living things. A notable exception was Baron Karl von Reichenbach, a 
German scientist from Tubingen who in 1845 had discovered wood-tar 
products, including creosote, used for the preservation of above-ground 
fencing and underwater pilings. He became aware that specially gifted 
persons whom he termed “sensitives” could actually see a strange energy 
emanating from all living things and even from the ends of bar magnets; 
this energy he called Odyle or Od. But, though his works were translated 
into English by a distinguished medical doctor, William Gregory, ap¬ 
pointed professor of chemistry at the University of Edinburgh in 1844, 
as Researches into the Forces of Magnetism , Electricity , Heat and Light 
in Relation to the Force of Life , his attempts to prove its existence to 
his physicist contemporaries in England and on the continent were 
rejected out of hand. 

Reichenbach indicated the reason why his “odic force” was spurned 

4 . 

when he wrote: “Whenever I began to touch on the subject, I felt at 
once that I was harping on a string of an unpleasant tone. They coupled 
Od and sensitivity in their minds with so-called ‘animal magnetism' and 
‘Mesmerism’ and with that all sympathy was at an end.” The coupling 
was entirely unjustified, in that Reichenbach had clearly stated that 
though the mysterious odic force might resemble animal magnetism and 
was associated with it, it also could exist quite independently. 

Years later, Wilhelm Reich contended that “the energy with which 
the ancient Greeks and the moderns since Gilbert were dealing was a 
basically different energy from that with which the physicists are dealing 
since Volta and Faraday, one obtained by the movement of wires in 
magnetic fields; different not only with regard to the principle of its 
production, but fundamentally different.” 

Reich believed that the ancient Greeks, with the principle of friction, 


had discovered the mysterious energy to which he gave the name “or- 
gone,” so similar to Reichenbach’s Od and to the ether of the ancients. 
Reich claimed that orgone is the medium in which light moves, and the 
medium for electromagnetic and gravitational activity, that it fills all 
space, though in different degrees and concentration, and is even pre¬ 
sent in vacuums. He considered it the basic link between inorganic and 
organic matter. By the 1960s, shortly after Reich’s death, the evidence 
for the electrical basis of organisms was becoming overwhelming. As 
D. S. Halacy, a writer on orthodox science, praided it simply: “The flow 
of electrons is basic to practically all life processes. 

The difficulties encountered in the period between Reichenbach and 
Reich stemmed partly from the vogue in science for taking things apart, 
rather than studying them as functioning wholes. Simultaneously the 
gulf widened between workers in what came to be known as the “life 
sciences” and physicists who more and more would believe only what 
they could see or instrumentally measure. In between, chemistry con¬ 
centrated on increasingly varied and smaller separate entities, which in 
their artificial recombination offered a cornucopia of fascinating new 


The first artificial synthesis in the laboratory of an organic substance, 
urea, in 1828, seemed to destroy the idea that there was a special “vital” 
aspect in living things. The discovery of cells, the purported biological 
counterparts of the atoms of classical Greek philosophy, suggested that 
plants, animals, and man himself were merely different associations of 
these building blocks or chemical aggregates. In this new climate, few 
took initiative to delve deeper into the effects of electromagnetism on 
life. Nevertheless, individualistic mavericks occasionally brought for¬ 
ward an idea on how plants might respond to external cosmic forces and 
thus kept the findings of Nollet and Bertholon from expiring. 

Across the Atlantic in North America, William Ross, testing claims 
of the Marquis of Anglesey that seeds sprouted faster when electrified, 
planted cucumbers in a mixture of black manganese oxide, table salt, and 
clean sand, watered with dilute sulphuric acid. When he applied an 
electric current to the mixture, the seeds sprouted well ahead of those 
in a similar but nonelectrified mixture. A year later, in 1845, the first 

Plants and Electromagnetism 173 

issue of the London Journal of the Horticultural Society published a long 
account of the “Influence of Electricity on Vegetation” by an agrono¬ 
mist, Edward Solly, who, like Gardini, suspended wires in the air over 
garden plots, and, like Ross, tried burying them under the soil. But of 
Solly’s seventy experiments with various grains, vegetables, and flowers, 
only nineteen were of any benefit, and nearly as many were harmful. 

The conflicting results of these researchers made it obvious that the 
amount, quality, and duration of electrical stimulation was of crucial 
importance to each form of vegetal life. But since physicists lacked 
instrumentation to measure its specific effects, and still knew little about 
how electricity, artificial or atmospheric, actually operated on plants, the 
experimental field was left to persistently curious horticulturalists or 
out-and-out cranks. Still, various observations showing that vegetation 
had an electric quality continued to be recorded. 

In 1859 an issue of the London Gardeners’ Chronicle published a 
report of light flashes passing from one scarlet verbena to another and 
noted that the phenomenon could best be seen during crepuscular 
periods when a thunderstorm approached after a long spell of dry 
weather. This validated an observation of Goethe’s that the flowers of 
oriental poppies could be seen flashing at dusk. 

It was not until the latter part of the century that new vistas were 
opened in Germany onto the exact nature of the electricity in the air 
which Lemonnier had discovered. Julius Elster and Hans Geitel, who 
specialized in the spontaneous emission of radiation from inorganic 
substances which was coming to be called “radioactivity,” began a vast 
study of atmospheric electricity. This disclosed that the soil of the earth 
continually emits electrically charged particles into the air. Called ions 
from the neuter present participle of the Greek verb, tenai, meaning “to 
go,” these particles were either atoms, groups of atoms, or molecules 
regarded as having a net positive or negative charge after gaining or 
losing electrons. Lemonnier’s observation that the atmosphere was con¬ 
tinually filled with electricity at last had some kind of material explana¬ 

Since on a clear day in good weather the earth has a negative electrical 
charge while the atmosphere is positive, electrons stream skyward from 


the soil and plants. During storms the polarity is reversed, the earth 
becoming positive and the base of the cloud layer negative. Because 
there are at any time an estimated three to four thousand electrical 
storms raging over the surface of the globe, the charges lost by the earth 
in those areas favored by balmy weather are thus replaced, and a seesaw¬ 
ing balance of electrical gradients maintained. 

As a result of the ever-present flow of electricity, the voltage, or 
electric pressure, increases at higher altitudes. Between the head of a 
six-foot man and the ground he stands on, it is 200 volts; from the top 
of the Empire State Building to the sidewalks around it, 40,000 volts; 
in the interval between the lowest layers of the ionosphere and the 
earth’s surface, 360,000 volts. Though this sounds dangerous, not much 
shocking power can be generated because there is little current flow. The 
chief difficulty in harnessing this vast reservoir of energy and putting it 
to work is lack of precise knowledge of exactly how it functions and of 

the laws which govern its operations. 

A new attack on the application of atmospheric electricity to the 
growth of plants began when a Finnish scientist of eclectic interests, 
Selim Lemstrom, made four expeditions to the subpolar regions of 
Spitsbergen, northern Norway, and Lapland from 1868 to 1884. An 
expert on polar light and earth magnetism, Lemstrom theorized that the 
luxuriant vegetation in those latitudes, which popular opinion ascribed 
to the lengthened days of their summers, was actually attributable to 
what he called “that violent electrical manifestation, the aurora bo- 


As it had been known from the time of Franklin that sharp points 
were especially attractive to atmospheric electricity—an observation 
which led to the development of the lightning rod—Lemstrom reasoned 
that “the sharp points of plants acted like lightning rods to collect 
atmospheric electricity and facilitate the exchange of charges of the air 
and the ground.” Lemstrom conducted studies on the rings in cross- 
sections of fir-tree trunks and found that the annual growth fully cor¬ 
related with periods of high aurora and sunspot activity, the effects being 

most pronounced as one traveled north. 

When he came home to verify these observations by experimentation, 

Plants and Electromagnetism 175 

Lemstrom connected a series of flowers in metal pots to a static genera¬ 
tor by an overhead network of wires sixteen inches above them and a 
pole set into the soil as a ground. Other pots he “left to nature.” After 
eight weeks, the electrified plants showed gains in weight of nearly 50 
percent over their electrically deprived neighbors. When he transferred 
his apparatus into a garden he not only more than doubled the yield of 
strawberries but found them to be much sweeter; his harvest from barley 
plants increased by one-third. 

In a long series of experiments conducted as far south as Burgundy, 
Lemstrom’s results varied not only with specific vegetables, fruits, and 
cereals but alsc with temperature, moisture, and the natural fertility and 
manuring of the soil. Lemstrom reported his success in 1902 in a book 
Electro Cultur, published in Berlin, and the term was included in Lib¬ 
erty Hyde Bailey’s Standard Cyclopedia of Horticulture. 

The English translation of Lerr.strom’s book, entitled Electricity in 
Agriculture and Horticulture, which appeared in London two years after 
the German original, acerbically, yet truthfully, as it turned out, warned 
in its introduction that, since the whole complicated subject was con¬ 
nected with no less than three separate sciences, physics, botany, and 
agronomy, it might not seem “particularly attractive” to scientists. This 
caveat was not needed for one of his readers, Sir Oliver Lodge. After 
achieving singular distinction in the field of physics, Lodge went on to 
demonstrate his open-mindedness by joining the London Society for 
Psychical Research and brought out a dozen books which advanced his 
conviction that whole worlds lay beyond the physical. 

Lodge determined to obviate Lemstrom’s time-consuming difficulties 
in moving his wire network upward as his plants grew; to allow the 
movement of people, animals, and farm equipment through his elec¬ 
trified fields, he suspended his grid on insulators attached to high poles. 
During one growing season Lodge was able to increase the per-acre yield 
of Canadian Red Fife wheat by 40 percent and was pleased that the 
bakers who used flour ground from it claimed it produced bread of a far 
better quality than that made from the wheat they were normally fur¬ 

After working with Lodge, his collaborator, John Newman, adapted 


the system to achieve over 20 percent increase in wheat yields in Eve¬ 
sham, England, and in potatoes dug at Dumfries, Scotland. Newman’s 
strawberries were not only vastly more productive than nonelectrified 
equivalents but, like Lemstrom’s, were more succulent and sweet; his 
sugar beets tested out as having greater than normal sugar content. Of 
passing interest, Newman published his report, not in a botanical jour¬ 
nal, but in the fifth edition of the Standard Handbook for Electrical 
Engineers , brought out by McGraw-Hill in New York. Ever since, it has 
been more the engineering fraternity than the plant men who have 
assiduously pursued electrocultural efforts. 

Plants and Electromagnetism 177 


Force F ields, 
Humans and Plants 

Because their profession calls upon them for practical solutions to prob¬ 
lems no matter how difficult they appear at first glance, engineers, unlike 
researchers in pure science, are less concerned with why or how some¬ 
thing works than with whether it will work. This attitude frees them 
from the shackles of theory, which in the history of science has often 
caused pedants to disregard the brilliant new findings of geniuses be¬ 
cause there was no theoretical basis to support them. 

When an ingenious Hungarian refugee, Joseph Molitorisz, who es¬ 
caped from his Soviet-occupied homeland and took an engineering 
degree, came across Abbe Nollet’s ideas about electro-osmosis, he started 

thinking about how the Frenchman's efforts could be applied to agricul¬ 
tural problems. It seemed strange to Molitorisz that a redwood can raise 
its sap more than three hundred feet whereas the best man-designed 
suction pump can pull water up less than a tenth of that distance. There 
was evidently something about trees and electricity that defied laws of 
hydrodynamics in standard engineering. At an agricultural research sta¬ 
tion run by the U.S. Government near Riverside, California, Molitorisz 
decided to adapt what he had learned from Nollet’s insights to citrus 
orchards. In an early experiment, he ran current through citrus seed¬ 
lings. When the current flowed in one direction, the growth of the tiny 
trees was speeded up; when the direction was reversed, the seedlings 
shriveled. Evidently, the electricity somehow abetted the natural flow of 
electric current present in the plants or, when severed, blocked it. In 
another experiment, partly inspired by his reading of Abbe Bertholon, 
Molitorisz applied a fifty-eight-volt current to six branches of an orange 
tree but left another six branches untouched, only to discover that 
within eighteen hours sap was freely circulating in the “powered” 
branches while in the untouched branches there was very little sap flow. 

One of the problems of harvesting oranges is the fact that their fruit 
does not all ripen simultaneously and must be laboriously hand-picked 
over many days if it is not to rot on the branches. Molitorisz theorized 
that picking costs might be reduced if he could get a tree to drop its 
ripe fruit through electrical stimulation. By wiring one orange tree to a 
source of direct current, he got it to drop its ripe fruit but retain the 
still-green oranges on its branches. Even with this success he could not 
get funds for additional experimentation; but Molitorisz, who has also 
invented an “electrical flower pot” which can keep flowers alive much 
longer than is normally possible, believes that one day it will be easy to 
harvest electrically the fruit of an entire citrus orchard and obviate the 
necessity of raising pickers into the trees. 

While Molitorisz was working on the West Coast, another engineer, 
Dr. Larry E. Murr, of the Materials Research Laboratory at the Pennsyl¬ 
vania State University, became the first to simulate artificially in the 
laboratory the electrical conditions of short thunderstorms and long 
periods of rainy weather. After seven years of work in his man-made 

Force Fields, Humans and Plants 179 

“mini-climate,” he was able to get significant increases in plant growth 
by carefully regulating the voltage field strength over plants in lucite pots 
set on an aluminum plate to serve as one electrode, the other supplied 
by an aluminum wire mesh hung from insulating poles. Other voltages, 
he found, severely damaged the leaves of plants. Murr reached the 
conclusion that “whether or not we can augment acreage yield by 
maintaining artificially devised electric fields over crop areas is still a 
matter for speculation. The cost of achieving such gains by large-scale 
outdoor installations might be much more than they are worth. Never¬ 
theless, the possibility exists.” 

Dr. George Starr White, who published a book entitled Cosmo- 
electric Culture , discovered that metals like iron and tin could facilitate 
plant growth if bright pieces were dangled from fruit trees. His evidence 
was corroborated by Randall Groves Hay, an industrial engineer from 
fenkintown. New Jersey. Where Hay attached metallic Christmas tree 
balls to tomato plants, they would bear their fruits earlier than normal. 
In his own words: “At first, my wife would not let me hang the balls 
on the plants because she said it would look just too ridiculous. But when 
fifteen potted tomatoes hung with balls started to ripen in cold, inclem¬ 
ent weather long before those of any other grower, she allowed me to 

* continue.” 

The experiments of James Lee Scribner, an electronic engineer in 
Greenville, South Carolina, who worked thirty years in radio with elec¬ 
tronic bathing of seeds, have resulted in a rival to Jack s beanstalk. 
Scribner wired an aluminum pot to an ordinary electric outlet. Spread 
between the electrodes was a wet metallic mix made up of millions of 
zinc and copper particles, which, when dried, allowed electricity to filter 
between the electrode strips. A butterbean planted in the pot grew to 
the amazing height of twenty-two feet, though similar beans normally 
never exceed two feet. At maturity it produced two bushels of delicious 
beans. Scribner believes that 

it is the electron that is responsible before the photosynthesis can take 
place, for it is the electron that magnetizes the chlorophyll in the plant 
cell that makes it possible for the photon to assert itself and become a 
part of the plant in the form of solar energy. It is also this magnetism that 


draws the molecules of oxygen into the ever expanding chlorophyll cells 
of the plant, and so we must assume that moisture is in no way integrated 
into the plant through any absorption process whatsoever, for the integra¬ 
tion of moisture is purely an electronic one. The so-called root pressure 
(moisture droplets) appearing on plant surfaces is not root pressure at all, 

but an abundance of electrons working with the rather excessive water 
energy in the bed. 

Scribner s findings on seeds had apparently been anticipated in the 
1930s, when the Italian Bindo Riccioni developed his own system for 
electrically treating seeds at the rate of five tons per day by allowing 
them to flow through parallel plate capacitors at about five meters per 
second. From the treated seeds Riccioni reported harvests from 2 to 37 
percent greater than the national average, depending on soil and 
weather conditions. His work was interrupted by World War II, and his 
12 7'P a £> e hook, translated into English only in 1960, does not thus far 
seem to have stimulated further experimentation in the United States 
or Western Europe. 

In the Soviet Union, however, a commercial processing plant to treat 
seeds with electrical energy, with a 2-ton-per-hour capacity, was reported 
in 1963, Results indicated that yields for the green mass of corn jumped 
15 to 20 percent over the average, oats and barley 10 to 15 percent, peas 
13 percent, and buckwheat 8 to 10 percent. What promise this pilot 
project might hold to relieve Russia’s persistent grain shortages was not 
mentioned. To an agricultural industry which has relied almost wholly 
on artificially produced chemicals not only to fertilize its soil but to rid 
its crops of marauding pests, the electrocultural horizons being opened 
up afresh by engineers seem either unnecessary or a threat. This explains 
why almost no money has been made available for more investigation. 

A former director of the United States Department of Agriculture’s 
Division of Agricultural Engineering Research, E. G. McKibben, com¬ 
plained as far back as 1962 that this policy was extremely short-sighted. 
In an address to the American Society of Agricultural Engineers McKib¬ 
ben said: “The importance and the possibilities of the application of 
electromagnetic energy in its many forms to agriculture are limited only 
by the creative imagination and physical resources available. Electro- 

Force Fields, Humans and Plants 181 

magnetic energy is probably the most basic form. It, or something 
closely related to it, appears to be the basic substance of all energy and 
all matter and the essential fabric of all plant and animal life,” McKib- 
ben stressed that as yet undreamed-of developments and accomplish¬ 
ments might be reasonably attained if only much more support was put 
behind electrocultural efforts; but his plea has thus far fallen on deaf 


Even before McKibben made his appeal, brand-new discoveries about 
the influence of magnetism on vegetation were coming to light. In 1960 
L. J. Audus, a professor of botany at London University’s Bedford 
College, while trying to find out exactly how plants respond to gravity, 
stumbled onto the fact that their roots are sensitive to magnetic fields 
and published a pioneering paper, “Magnetotropism, a New Plant 
Growth Response,” in Nature. Nearly simultaneously, two Russians, 
A. V. Krylov and G. A. Tarakanova, issued their report in Moscow, 
showing that tomatoes ripen inexplicably faster nearer the south than 
the north pole of a magnet. 

In Canada, Dr. U. J. Pittman, of the Agricultural Research Station 
in Lethbridge, Alberta, had observed all across the North American 
continent that the roots of various domestic and wild cereal grains, as 
well as those of a number of species of weeds, consistently aligned 
themselves in a north-south plane parallel to the horizontal force of the 
earth’s magnetic field. He found that the earth’s magnetism speeded up 
the germination of Chinook and Kharkov wheat, Compana barley, Eagle 
oats. Redwood flax, and common fall rye if the long axes of the seeds 
and embryo ends were oriented toward the north magnetic pole. “When 
Granny insisted that her pumpkin seeds be planted pointing north,” 
wrote Pittman in Crops and Soils Magazine, “she may have been dead 

In the United States, the possibility of large-scale application of the 
occult force of magnetism to agriculture arose when in Denver, 
Colorado, still another engineer, Dr. H. Len Cox, chanced to read an 
article in a 1968 issue of Aviation Week and Space Technology which 
reported that infrared photos taken from NASA satellites seemed to 
indicate that wheat plants attacked by pests, or otherwise incapacitated, 


had an entirely different “electromagnetic signature” from those in a 
field expected to produce a bumper crop. Intrigued by a phenomenon 
for which he had no explanation, Cox, a space scientist, after dipping 
into the electrocultural literature, asked a metallurgist friend whether he 

knew of any magnetizable substance which could make plants grow 
faster and more fruitfully. 

When the metallurgist suggested that deposits of a useless ferrous ore, 
magnetite, totaling billions of tons, were easily accessible in nearby 
Wyoming, Cox brought back a truckload and ground it into powder. 
After charging it in a magnetic field of undisclosed strength and mixing 
it with trace minerals, he sifted it into the soil of a garden plot where 
it could come into contact with the roots of red and white radishes. 
Though the green tops of the maturing plants seemed no different from 
similar radishes allowed to grow normally in a neighboring plot, when 
Cox pulled his “activated” vegetables from the ground, he saw results 
beyond his wildest expectations. Not only were the activated radishes on 
an average twice as large as the controls, but the fact that their tap roots 
were three to four times as long indicated that root stimulation seemed 
to have produced the increased growth. The remarkable effect on 
radishes was also obtained for other root vegetables, such as rutabagas, 
turnips, and carrots, and also for green plants such as beans, lettuce, 
broccoli, and oyster plant. 

When Cox’s Electroculture Corporation began selling the new prod¬ 
uct in ten-pound cans in 1970, users reported not only that they got 
much larger yields but that the vegetables produced had a far better 
flavor, corroborating Lemstrom’s report on his strawberries and Sir Oli¬ 
ver Lodge’s bakers' comments on their bread. Others reported that irises 
doubled the number of blossoms on a single stalk no matter whether 
they were planted with or without fertilizer, and a plastic surgeon told 
Cox that when he had put the magnetized ore among the roots of one 
of two ponderosa pine seedlings in his lawn, the little tree had grown 
in one summer four times as high as its neighbor. 

Asked how the activator works Cox replied: “It is still a mystery. 
No one knows how it functions any more than doctors know why aspirin 
has its effect. Disappointing to nurserymen and city-dwelling plant lov- 

j Force Fields, Humans and Plants 183 

ers is the odd fact that the magnetized powder produces no results when 
shaken into flower pots or greenhouse flats. To work it has to go into 
the soil of the earth itself.” One explanation for this anomaly is that the 
ferrous oxide—which when magnetized is called lodestone—radiates its 
power only when in contact with what Gilbert, in his day, called its 

animate mother.” 

Whatever the ultimate solution to the problem, in the two decades 
following World War I startling new discoveries were coming to light 
in laboratories suggesting that mysterious radiations in the natural envi¬ 
ronment might be far more crucial to the well-being of plants and 

animals than had hitherto been suspected. 

In the early 1920s Georges Lakhovsky, a Russian-born engineer living 

in Paris, had begun a series of books which suggested that the basis of 
life was not matter but immaterial vibrations associated with it. “Every 
living thing emits radiations,” stressed Lakhovsky, and advanced the 
revolutionary new theory that cells, the essential organic units of all 
living things, were electromagnetic radiators capable, like wireless sets, 

of emitting and absorbing high-frequency waves. 

The essence of Lakhovsky s theory was that cells are microscopic 

oscillating circuits. In electrical parlance such an oscillating circuit re¬ 
quires two basic elements: a capacitor, or source of stored electric charge, 
and a coil of wire. As the current from the capacitor flows back and forth 
between one end of the wire and the other, it creates a magnetic field 
which oscillates at a certain frequency, or so many times per second. If 
such a circuit is greatly reduced in size, very high frequencies are ob¬ 
tained; Lakhovsky believed this to be what occurs in the microscopically 
tiny nuclei of living cells. In the small twisted filaments within cellular 
nuclei Lakhovsky descried the analogs to electrical circuits. 

In his L’Origine de la Vie , published in 1925, Lakhovsky set forth 
a number of startling experiments upholding the idea that disease is a 
matter of disequilibrium in cellular oscillation, that the fight between 
healthy cells and pathogens, such as bacteria or viruses, is a “war of 
radiations.” If the radiations of the microbes are stronger, cells begin to 
oscillate aperiodically and became “diseased.” When they cease to oscil¬ 
late, they die. If the cellular radiations gain ascendance, the microbes 



are killed. In order that a diseased cell be restored to health, Lakhovsky 
felt it should be treated by means of a radiation of appropriate fre¬ 

In 1923, Lakhovsky designed an electrical apparatus emitting very 
short waves (with lengths of two to ten meters) which he called a 
“radio-cellulo-oscillator.” In the surgical clinic of the famous Salpetriere 
hospital in Paris he inoculated geraniums with cancer-producing bac¬ 
teria. When the plants had developed tumors the size of cherry stones, 
one of them was exposed to radiation from the oscillator. During the first 
days the tumor grew rapidly, but after two weeks it suddenly began to 
shrink and die; after a second two-week period it fell off the afflicted 
plant. Other geraniums treated over different time periods also shed 
their cancers under the effect of oscillator radiations. 

Lakhovsky saw these cures as supporting his theory. The cancer had 
been overcome by the enhancement of the normal oscillations of healthy 
cells in the geraniums. This was quite opposite to the approach of the 
radium specialists, who proposed that the cancer cells be destroyed by 
external radiation. 

In the development of his theory Lakhovsky was faced with the 
problem of the origin of the energy necessary for the normal production 
and maintenance of cellular oscillations. It did not seem probable to 
Lakhovsky that the energy is produced within cells any more than the 
energy in an electric battery or a steam engine is internally produced. 
He therefore came to the conclusion that the energy is externally derived 
from cosmic radiation. 

To try to establish the cosmic origin of the energy, Lakhovsky decided 
to dispense with the device he had dreamed up to produce artificial rays 
and tap natural energy from space. In January, 1925, he picked one of 
a series of geraniums previously inoculated with cancer and surrounded 
it with a circular copper spiral thirty centimeters in diameter, its two 
unjoined ends fixed in an ebonite support. After several weeks he found 
that whereas all the control geraniums inoculated with cancer had died 
and dried up, the plant ringed with the copper spiral was not only 
radiantly healthy but had grown twice as high as uninoculated controls. 

These spectacular results led Lakhovsky into a complex theory as to 

Force Fields , Humans and Plants 185 


. li 




; !| l 

I ll 



how the geranium had been able to pick up from the vast field of waves 
in the external atmosphere the exact frequencies which enabled its ce 
to oscillate normally and so powerfully that the cancer-afflic e ce 

were destroyed. f 

To the multitude of radiations of all frequencies emanating from 

space and unceasingly traversing the atmosphere Lakhovsky gave the 
generic name ‘'universion.” He concluded that some of them filtered 
by the spiral, were brought specifically into action to restore the degene¬ 
rating cells of the diseased geranium to healthy activity. 

The universion, or collectivity of universal radiation was not in 
Lakhovsky’s mind, to be associated with the notion of a ^niplete 
vacuum in space with which physicists had replaced the ether of the 
nineteenth century. To Lakhovsky the ether was not the negation of a 
matter but a synthesis of radiation forces, the universal plexus of aU 
cosmic rays. It was a ubiquitous and all-pervading medium into winch 
disintegrated elements were consigned and transforme m o e ec 
particles. Lakhovsky believed that with the recognition of this new 
concept the bounds of science could be extended and a basis Imdforan 
attack on the most absorbing problems of life, including te epat y, e 
transmission of thought, and, by inference, man’s communication with 

h! March of 1927 Lakhovsky wrote a communication, “Influence of 
Astral Waves on Oscillations of Living Cells,” which was presented to 
the French Academy by his friend the eminent biophysicist and discov¬ 
erer of diathermy, Professor Jacques Arsene d’Arsonval. 

By March of 1928, the geranium with the spiral around it had a - 

tained the abnormal height of four and one-half feet and was flouns mg 
even in winter. Sure that by his work on plants he had stumbled on a 
new therapy of unimaginable importance to medicine, Lakhovsky went 
on to develop a sophisticated therapeutic device for human beings which 
he called a “multi-wave oscillator.” It was successfully used in French, 
Swedish, and Italian clinics to cure cancerous growths and lesions 
brought about by radium burns; goiters; and a variety of diseases re¬ 
garded as incurable. When Lakhovsky, fleeing the Germans who had 
occupied Paris and were seeking him out as a prominent anti-Nazi, came 


to New York in 1941, the physiotherapy department of a large New 
York hospital employed his multi-wave oscillator successfully to treat 
arthritis, chronic bronchitis, congenital hip dislocation, and other ills, 
and a Brooklyn urologist and surgeon, though he would not reveal his 
name, stated that he had used it on hundreds of patients to arrest bodily 
disturbances unamenable to other treatment. When Lakhovsky died in 
1943, his astonishing findings, which laid the basis for radiobiology, were 
left unpursued by the medical profession, and today use of the multi¬ 
wave oscillator for medical treatment is officially banned by U.S. health 

While Lakhovsky was working in Paris, at the Texas State University 
a team headed by Professor E. J. Lund devised a way to measure electri¬ 
cal potentials in plants. In a series of experiments lasting more than ten 
years, Lund showed that plant cells produce electric fields, currents, or 
impulses which, as Bose had implied, could serve as “nervous systems.’' 
Lund further demonstrated that the growth of plants is triggered by 
these electrical nervous systems rather than by growth hormones, or 
auxins, as was previously believed, and that the auxins are summoned 
and even transported by the cell-generated electric fields to the place 
where growth is known to occur. 

In an important but little-known book. Bioelectric Fields and Growth, 
Lund put forward the revolutionary finding that the electric pattern in 
plant cells changes nearly a half hour before the diffusion of hormones 
in them can be effective and growth detected. 

Meanwhile, the research of the Russian Alexander Gurwitsch, which 
inspired L. George Lawrence to begin his study of the potentialities of 
biocommunication, despite its rejection by the U.S, Academy of 
Sciences, began to get a new lease on life. The distinguished bacteriolo¬ 
gist at Cornell University, Professor Otto Rahn, was amazed to find that 
whenever any of his laboratory workers fell ill they appeared to cause the 
death of yeast cells with which they were experimenting. A few minutes’ 
exposure to their fingertips even at a distance would kill vigorous cells 
of this carbohydrate-fermenting fungus. Further investigation showed 
that a chemical compound excreted from the hands and face of the sick 
technicians was responsible; but exactly how it acted at a distance was 

Force Fields, Humans and Plants 187 


a mystery. Rahn went on to prove that the continually renewed tissue 

of the cornea of the eye, as well as most wounds and an “ r ^ m " 
radiation; he set these and other findings down in a book Inmibl 
Radiation of Organisms, which, on the whole, was ignore y is co 

'^Because most physicists still had no better means of detecting all this 

new and strange radiation than they did Mesmer's “animal ™S net,sm 
or Reichenbach’s “odic force,” the idea that living tissue couldiemitor 
respond to vibrations of energy was greeted with skepticism. The qiK - 
tioning light thrown on discoveries such as Lakhovsky s, Gurwitsch s, 
and Rahn’s was also focused on those of a surgeon, George Washington 
Crile, founder of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation who pubhshed 
Phenomena of Life: A Radio-Electncal Interpretation in 1936. The 
result of a lifetime of research, it offered evidence that the living org 
nism is specifically adapted to the formation, storage,. and^ ° e “ ^ 

“' Tc umts or Laces in protoplasm which Crile called radiogcns^ 
Three years before his book appeared, Crile pointed out in an address 
to the Congress of the American College of Surgeons that it would be 

possible for future skilled radio-diagnosticians to detect ‘ e P™ s ™ ce 
disease before it became outwardly apparent. For his efforts Cnle was 
ridiculed by both his medical colleagues and by cellular biologists, who 
accused him of having no solid grasp of the literature. 

i I 

The effects of electromagnetic energy on living cells, both healthy and 

diseased, which most doctors and medical r^archers incMmg cancer 

soecialists have yet honestly to confront, were finally to be revealed y 
the magic of time-lapse photography. Because most plants 
slowly they look as unchanging to the human eye as if petrified O y 
by looking away from plants for several hours or, better, for several day 
can one notice that they are different from the plastic flowers and sh ubs 
which are supplanting living plants in florist shops across the wor 
In 1927, an Illinois teen-ager, staring at the buds on a large apple tree 

in his front yard, wondering when they would open into 

that if he could take pictures of them in regular sequence he would be 

able to watch the buds unfold before his eyes. 


tuned to the music of the spheres 

Thus began the career of John Nash Ott, whose pioneering interest 
in time-lapse photography led him to unveil new mysteries in the king¬ 
dom of plants. 

To experiment with exotic varieties of plants Ott built a small green¬ 
house, where he found that each variety of plant presented to him as 
many problems as would a different tribe to an anthropologist. Many of 
his charges seemed to act like temperamental prima donnas with deep 
psychological disturbances. As he consulted with university botanists 
and research scientists on the staffs of large companies, little by little the 
basic biological causes for his plants’ misbehavior became clear: they 
were extremely sensitive not only to light and temperature but to ultravi¬ 
olet, TV and X-rays. 

Ott’s discoveries about light and temperature may lead to the explana¬ 
tion of many botanical mysteries, not the least of which is the tremen¬ 
dous size of plants growing high in the mountains of central Africa. 

Over thirty years ago the English author Patrick Synge in his book 
Plants with Personality suggested that though no one had been able to 
produce a satisfactory theory on the origin of giantism in plants, it 
perhaps might happen on account of a complement of peculiar environ¬ 
mental conditions, namely, a low but moderately constant temperature, 
a consistently high humidity, and a strong intensity of ultraviolet light 
due both to the altitude and to the equatorial location. 

In the European Alps vegetation growing high up tends toward 
dwarfism, but in the Mountains of the Moon, or Ruwenzori as the 
Africans call them, Synge encountered heathers “as mighty as great 
trees” and found shell-pink impatiens with flowers two inches across. 

On the extinct volcano Mount Elgon, rising fourteen thousand feet 
on the Kenya-Uganda border, Synge found lobelias, which in England 
are tiny blue-flowered plants, growing nearly thirty feet tall, “like gigan¬ 
tic blue and green obelisks.” He photographed them half covered with 
snow and with icicles hanging from the tips of their leaves. But when 
the same plants were brought back to England, they could not survive 
outdoors even in the mild winters of Surrey. 

Synge’s idea accorded with the hypothesis of the French chemist 
Pierre Berthelot, that it is the continuous presence of electricity high in 
the Alpine ranges that accounts for the luscious growth of plants in very 

Force Fields , humans and Plants 189 

poor soil If the conditions enumerated by Synge are someday simulated 
by researchers, perhaps these giant plants will be successfully grown at 

56 Ott’! experiments in time-lapse photography were to lead him to the 
discovery that different wave lengths of light have a fundamental effect 
on photosynthesis, the process by which green plants convert light to 
chemical energy and by means of it synthesize organic compounds from 
inorganic ones, turning carbon dioxide and water into carbohydrates, 
with a release of oxygen. To attack this problem, he spent months 
building equipment which would allow him to take microscopic pictures 
of the streaming of protoplasm m the cells of Elodea grass w i e it was 
stimulated by direct unfiltered natural sunlight. Exposed to the sun s 
rays, the chlorophyll-containing bodies, called chloroplasts, which are 
the principal agents of photosynthesis, streamed in an orderly fashion 
around the edges of the obloid cells. But when the ultraviolet light in 
the sunlight was filtered out, some of the chloroplasts would drop ou 
of the streaming pattern and huddle, immobile, in the comers Cutting 
out the colors from the blue end of the spectrum toward the red rncreas- 

ingly slowed the chloroplast action. , n 

Particularly fascinating to Ott was the fact that, at the day s end, all 

the chloroplasts slowed down and stopped no matter how intensely they 

were subjected to artificial light. Only when the sun rose the next day 

would they resume the normal streaming pattern. 

Ott realized that if the basic principles of photochemistry, as t ey 
applied to plant photosynthesis, had analogs in the animal world then, 
as the proponents of color-therapy have long maintained, vanous fre¬ 
quencies of light might affect the physical well-being of humans by 
acting on the body chemistry in a way similar to the action of certain 

drugs on nervous and mental disorders. 

In 1964 an article in Time magazine spurred Ott to research the ettec 

of TV radiation on plants and humans. The story suggested that symp¬ 
toms of nervousness, continuous fatigue, headaches, loss of sleep, and 
vomiting in thirty children under study by two U.S. Air Force physicians 
were somehow related to the fact that all of these children were watch¬ 
ing TV from three to six hours on weekdays and from twelve to twenty 

190 tuned to the music of the spheres 

hours on weekends. Though the doctors had concluded that the children 
were afflicted by prolonged idleness in front of the set, Ott wondered 
if some sort of radiation might not be at issue, particularly that of X-rays, 
which lie beyond ultraviolet in the energy spectrum. 

To test this idea, Ott covered half of the picture tube of a color TV 
set with a sixteenth of an inch of lead shielding, normally used to block 
out X-rays. The other half he covered with heavy black photographic 
paper capable of stopping visible and ultraviolet light, but allowing other 
electromagnetic frequencies to penetrate. 

Ott placed six pots of bean sprouts in front of each half of the TV 
tube, a pair at three different levels from top to bottom. As a control, 
six more pots, each with its three bean sprouts, were placed outdoors, 
fifty feet from the greenhouse where the TV set was located. 

At the end of three weeks, both the lead-shielded beans and those 
growing outdoors had risen to a height of six inches and appeared 
healthy and normal. The beans shielded from the TV only by the 
photographic paper had been distorted by toxic radiations into a vine- 
type growth. In some cases the roots appeared to have grown incongru¬ 
ously upward out of the soil. If TV radiation could make monsters of 
bean plants what might it do to children? 

Several years later, when Ott was discussing the distortion of the 
beans with space scientists, he was told that the root growth of his bean 
plants exposed to radiation resembled that of wheat seedlings in a 
bio-capsule in outer space, where it was thought to be due to the 
weightless condition from lack of gravity, Some of the scientists seemed 
intrigued by his idea that not weightlessness but a general background 

radiation of an unspecified energy might cause the eccentric root 

Since general background radiation coming from the zenith, or the 
point directly overhead, penetrates through less of the earth’s atmos¬ 
phere and is therefore more powerful than that coming in at any other 
angle, Ott thinks that roots of plants grow downward to get away from 
the radiation directly above them. 

Similar experiments showed that white rats exposed to the same 
radiation which caused the wild growth in the beans became increas- 

Force Fields, Humans and Plants 191 

ingly hyperactive and aggressive, then progressively lethargic“ a P° 

Where it was necessary to pnsh then, to makc thcm move in the. ag - 

Ott noticed further that after he set up his TV in the 8 een J u ’ 
rats in an animal-breeding room fifteen feet away produced litters of only 
one or two babies, as against a norm of eight to twelve, even though two 
building partitions intervened between the TV set and epregn 
mothers. When the TV set was removed, it took six months 

Weeding to return to normsi- i 1 

Because of increasing difficulty in maintaining discipline m schoo , 

children who are hyperactive or have difficulty concentrating have ove 
recent years been administered so-called behaviora modification drugs 
or “peace pills ” This practice has aroused a storm of controversy among 

it has not been publicly suggested, Ott wonders whether this hyperac 
tivity-and increasingly reported forms of lethargy 1 “' ud,n ^ 1 ° n g d 

offld to repeat his experiments cost-free for technicians at RCA s 
Bio-Analytical Laboratory, the director of research not only hastily d 
dined bit was later quoted as saying, “It is utterly impossible for any 

TV set today to give off harmful rays. . is 

Ott knew however, that since the radiation from 
contained in an extremely narrow band on the electromagnetic spec¬ 
trum biological systems sensitive to this narrow spike o energy cou 
be as overstimulated by it as they would be by light focused throug 
magnifying glass. The only difference is that, whereas the ™agn, 

the TV can travel in any direction where it meets no obstruction. If 
one-half of a mill.-roentgen doesn't appear to be a 

° LlTof a thousandth of a ton. And it is easy to juggle the deama 
point in infinitesimal amounts without realizing the true relationship 

involved. Eighty degrees Fahrenheit is a comfortable ^ 

but one has only to double this figure to reach a point where most forms 

of life on earth could no longer exist. 

Ott’s belief that electromagnetic radiation affects p an s an 
in many unsuspected ways increased when he was called by Paramou 

192 tuned to the music of the spheres 

Pictures in Hollywood to make time-lapse photos of flowers for a new 
picture, starring Barbra Streisand, based on the Broadway musical hit 
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever. In the story the heroine numbers 
among her extrasensory abilities that of making flowers grow as she sings 
to them. The studio wanted Ott to begin work immediately on gerani¬ 
ums, roses, irises, hyacinths, tulips, and daffodils for inclusion in this part 
of the film. 

To duplicate as nearly as possible natural rays of outdoor sunlight, Ott 
had developed a new full-spectrum fluorescent tube, with added ultravio¬ 
let. Because he had a tight deadline, he knew that only if the flowers 
would grow under the new lights could he hope for success. To his relief, 
all the flowers grew well. But Ott noticed that the best results came 
when the flowers were placed under the center, rather than the ends, 
of the fluorescent tubes, He knew that the tubes worked on the same 
principle as the cathode guns in TV sets or in X-ray machines, but at 
much lower voltages, so low in fact that textbooks stated they could not 
produce harmful radiation. Suspecting the textbooks might be wrong, 
Ott placed two sets of ten parallel tubes end to end so that there were 
twenty cathodes in close proximity. When he sprouted the same kind 
of potted beans used in the TV experiments, he was startled to see that 
the ones close to the cathodes were stunted whereas those both at the 
center of the tubes and ten feet away from them appeared normal. 

After many more experiments with beans, Qtt became certain that 
they are far more sensitive to trace amounts of radiation than the 
standard radiation-measuring equipment presently available. This, he 
thinks, is because whereas the instruments pick up only a single reading 
of energy the biological systems are exposed to its cumulative effects. 

Ott was next confronted with the possibility that light frequencies 
could affect the development and growth of cancer. 

His initial clue that there was a connection between light frequencies 
and cancer came when a physician in charge of cancer research at one 
of New York's largest hospitals agreed to ask fifteen human cancer 
patients to spend as much time as possible outdoors in natural sunlight 
without their glasses and avoid artificial light sources, including televi¬ 

By the end of the summer the doctor told Ott that it was the consen- 

Force Fields, Humans and Plants 193 

SUS of all those assisting in the project that fourth of he pahents had 
shown no further advancement in tumor development. 

In the meantime, Ott had aroused the interest of 
ophthalmologist, who explained to him that a layer of ^1'" the retina 
of the eve with no function in vision, showed abnormal response 

j „ an( J as ked if he would run toxicity tests of the drugs 

by utilizing microscopic time-lapse photography. Ot used a pto 
contrast microscope equipped with a complete set of coin ed filta, 
which permit the outline and details of cell structure jcM « 

nique revealed that exposure to the wavelengths of blue W " 
abnormal pseudopodical activity in the pigment of the retinal ceBs 
whereas red light caused the cell walls to rupture. Even more mtcrest.g 
™sT fact that when the cells were fed, by adding fresh media to the 
slide chambers, cell division was not encouraged at constant tempera 
ture, but if the temperature was lowered during the feeding accelerate 

division would take place within sixteen hours. 

During their work the researchers also noticed that )ust before sunse 

the activity of the pigment granules within the cells wo^low down 
and would return to normal only the next mormng. It seemed to Ott 

that they were behaving just like the chloroplasts in 

grass. Perhaps plants and animals had more similarities in their bas 

functioning than had hitherto been suspected. 

Ott suggests that the responses of chloroplasts and the pigment gran¬ 
ules in retinal epithelial cells may be “tuned- to the 
tram of sunlight, under which all life on this earth has evolved. It would 
thus appear,” he says, “that the basic principles of photayrrthesrs m 
plants, where light energy is recognized as a pnnc.pal growthjcgulating 

“wtii-regulating factor in animal life through control of the chemical 

01 Other studies J cellular behavior have led Ott to conclude that 
malillumination or malradiation may be as important as malnutrition 

the initiation of disease. _ . , 

At the 1970 meeting of the American Association for the van 

194 tuned to the music of THE SPHERES 

ment of Science, Dr. Lewis W. Mayron, in his discussion of Ott’s 
research with bean plants and rats exposed to TV radiation, concluded 
that “the radiation has a physiological effect both on plants and animals 
which appears to be chemically mediated.” Mayron also commented on 
Ott’s experiments with the effects of fluorescent tubes on beans, stating: 
“The implications for human health are enormous when one considers 
the magnitude of the use of fluorescent lighting in stores, offices, facto¬ 
ries, schools and homes.” 

With generous support from the Evelyn Wood Foundation, Ott has 
carried on studies on what effects TV sets might have on children with 
behavioral problems. With the cooperation of Mrs. Arnold C. Tackett, 
principal of a school which devotes itself to such children in Sarasota, 
Florida, Ott made checks of home TV sets watched by the youngsters 
and found measurable amounts of X-ray radiation in most of them, 
especially those which had run for long hours without overhaul. The 
parents agreed to get the children to spend much more time playing 
outdoors during the summer vacation and to sit far back from the TV 
while watching it. 

By November of the new school year, Mrs. Tackett was able to report 
that the behavioral problems of children so treated were markedly di¬ 

By the late 1960s the U.S. Congress had passed a Radiation Control 
Act by a vote of 381 to 0. Florida Representative Paul Ropes, co-author 
of the act, credited Ott with “getting us all started on the road toward 
control of radiation from electronic products.” Ott credits his plants 
with showing him the way to the light. 

Since the work of Gurwitsch, Rahn, Crile, and the proponents of 
electroculture all supported the earlier contentions of Galvani and Mes- 
mer that living things have electrical or magnetic properties, it was 
strange that no one had suggested that they must also have about them 
the same electromagnetic fields as those accepted in the world of particle 
physics, This was exactly the theory boldly advanced by two Yale Uni¬ 
versity professors, one a philosopher, F. S. C. Northrop, the other, like 
Galvani, a medical doctor and anatomist, Harold Saxton Burr. 

By asserting that electrical fields are the very organizers of life systems. 

Force Fields , Humans and Plants 195 

Northrop and Burr offered chemists a new basis on which to exp '^ h °* 

the thousands of separate constituents they had uncovered might be put 

body replaced every six months, are properly aligned. Thlsapp “'“ 
revitalize the rejected theories of Mesmers animal magnetism and Gah 

vani’s animal electricity and provide a ^f^V^enriBeSn and 
for the airy “elan vital" of the French philosopher Henri Bergson, 

the “entelechy” of the German biochemist Hans Dnesch. 

To prove their theory, Burr and his laboratory coUeagues 

a voltmeter of a new design, which drew no current from life forms t 

be studied and thus could not disrupt the total fields around thenr 

Twenty years of research with this device and its more sophisticated 

descendants revealed to Burr and several of his assoaates astonis ^ 

things about the vegetal and animal world. Dr. Louis g * 

2Z „d -s»” • 

for example that the precise moment of a woman o ^ ^ 

measured with great accuracy and that some women Th ghthe 

™& like t0 leam beMer h ° W ’ 

or how not, to have children. detected in cer- 

Burr himself determined that malignances could be detects! in c 

tain organs before any clinical signs could be observed, and that the rate 
of healing in wounds could be reliably measured. The future location 
a chick’s head could be found and pinpointed in the egg rom w 
would letch, without breaking it, during the first day 

Turning to the world of plants, Burr measured what he came 
“life-fields” around seeds, and found that profoun c anges in 
voltage patterns were caused by the alteration of a sing e gene 
parent stock. Even more potentially interesting to plant b-d- wa h 
discovery that it is possible to predict how strong and healthy a future 
plant will be from the electrical diagnosis of the seed w ic pro u 




Because, of all living things, they seemed the most enduring and the 
least motile. Burr charted the life fields of trees on the Yale campus and 
at his laboratory in Old Lyme, Connecticut, over nearly two decades. 
He found that recordings related not only to the lunar cycle and to 
sunspots, which flare up at intervals with many years between them, but 
revealed cycles recurring every three and six months that were beyond 
his explanation. His conclusions seemed to make less suspect the long- 
mocked practices of generations of gardeners who claimed that their 
crops should be planted according to the phases of the moon. 

One of Burr's students, Leonard J. Ravitz, Jr., who was to become a 
psychiatrist, was able to measure depths of hypnosis with the Burr- 
discovered techniques as far back as 1948. He went on to the not 
surprising conclusion that all humans are in hypnotic states most of the 
time, even when wide awake. 

The continuous charting of life fields in people indicates a cyclic rise 
and fall of voltage, the peaks and valleys of which correlate to the periods 
when they feel good or bad, “up” or “down.” By plotting the curves in 
advance it is possible to predict highs and lows weeks in advance, as the 
students of bio-rhythms have proposed, going back to the time when 
they were first theorized by Dr. Wilhelm Fliess, whose letters were so 
encouraging to Sigmund Freud during the years of Freud's self-analysis. 

Burr’s life work, as further developed by Ravitz, indicates that the 
organizing field around the “bodies” of living things anticipates the 
physical events within them and suggests that the mind itself, as Marcel 
Vogel maintains, can, by modulating the field, affect positively or 
deleteriously the matter with which it is held to be associated. But these 
signposts had yet to be read by the leaders of organized medicine, and 
Burr’s work has only recently begun to be seriously considered. 

Medical pundits are now in for a further shock due to a startling 
discovery in 1972 at the Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medi¬ 
cine in Novosibirsk, a burgeoning industrial city of over a million people 
on the banks of Siberia’s mighty river Ob, which strongly supports the 
findings of Gurwitsch, Rahn and Crile. 

S. P. Shchurin and two colleagues from the Institute of Automation 
and Electrometry have been awarded a special diploma by the USSR 

Force Fields, Humans and Plants 197 

State Committee for Inventions and Discoveries for discovering that 
cells can “converse” by coding their messages in the form of a special 

electromagnetic ray. 

The experimenters placed identical tissue cultures in two hermetically 
sealed vessels separated by a wall of glass, then introduced a lethal virus 
in one of the chambers which killed the colony of cells inside it. The 
second colony remained wholly unaffected. However, when they re¬ 
placed the glass divider with a sheet of quartz glass and again introduced 
killing viruses to one of the colonies, the Soviet scientists were aston¬ 
ished to see that the second colony also met the same fate as the first, 
even though the viruses could not possibly have penetrated the barrier. 
Other first and second colonies of cells, separated by the quartz glass, 
both perished when only the first colony was murdered with chemical 
poisons or lethal radiation and the second left unexposed. What killed 
the second colony in each case? 

Since ordinary glass does not permit ultraviolet rays to pass but quartz 
glass does, it seemed to the Soviet scientists that here was a key to the 
mystery. They recalled that Gurwitsch had theorized that onion cells 
could emit ultraviolet rays, and they resurrected his ideas from the limbo 
to which they had been consigned in the 1930s. Working with an 
electronic eye amplified by a photomultiplier and registered by a self- 
recorder which traced a graph marking the energy levels on a moving 
tape, they found that when life processes in the tissue cultures remained 
normal , the ultraviolet glow, invisible to the human eye but detectable 
as oscillations on the tape, remained stable. As soon as the affected 
colony began to battle against its infection, the radiation intensified. 

Reports on this work in Moscow newspapers disclosed that, however 
fantastic it might seem, the ultraviolet radiation from the afflicted cells 
carried information encoded in the fluctuation in intensity which was 
somehow received by the second colony, just as words are transmitted 

and received in dots and dashes in the Morse code. 

Since the second colony seemed in each case to die in exactly the same 
way as the first, the Soviets realized that it was as dangerous for healthy 
cells to be exposed to the transmitted signal of dying cells as it was for 
them to be exposed to viruses, poisons, and lethal radiation. It appeared 


that the second colony upon receiving the alarm signal from the dying 
first colony began to mobilize for resistance and that its very “restructur¬ 
ing for war” against a nonexistent enemy proved as fatal as if it had 
indeed been attacked. 

Moscow newspapers suggested that the Novosibirsk work may help to 
pinpoint what inner reserves the human body possesses to resist disease 
and quoted Shchurin on how it may help to open new horizons in 
diagnosis: “We are convinced that the radiation is capable of giving the 
first warning about the beginning of malignant regeneration and of 
revealing the presence of particular viruses. At the present time the early 
identification of many ailments, for instance the numerous forms of 
hepatitis, presents major difficulties.” 

Thus, fifty years after his work, his countrymen have finally brought 
recognition to Gurwitsch’s brilliant research. Coincidentally they have 
also validated the work of another obscure compatriot, Semyon Kirlian, 
who has managed to capture on film extraordinary pictures of the force 

fields around humans and plants so accurately described and measured 
by Burr and Ravitz. 

Force Fields, Humans and Plants 199 


The Mystery 

of Plant and Human Auras 

The long train was on the last leg of its journey from Moscow to 
Krasnodar, a south Russian inland port on the Kuban River two un- 
dred miles northwest of the volcanic Elbrus, Europe s highest mounta 

peak in the Greater Caucasus range. . . , . 

In one of its “soft” cushioned cars reserved for Soviet officials a p an 

specialist, bored with watching the flat countryside, shl only partly- 
recovered in 1950 from the Nazi ravages of the Great Patriotic , 
reopened his satchel to check the condition of two similar teaves J h ‘ 
he had plucked in a greenhouse before leaving the Soviet capital. Re¬ 
lieved to see that the leaves were still sparkling fresh and green in their 

bedding of moist cotton wool, he sat back in his fauteuil to admire the 
approach of the Caucasian piedmont. 

Late that evening in a small Krasnodar apartment, a corner of which' 
was fitted out as a miniature laboratory, Semyon Davidovich Kirlian, an 
electrician and amateur photographer, and his wife, Valentina, were 
making some adjustments to equipment they had begun building two 
years before the Nazi attack on their country. 

With their new invention they had discovered they could photo¬ 
graphically reproduce—without lens or camera—a strange luminescence 
which seemed to issue from all living things but was unapprehensible by 
the human eye. 

A knock on the door surprised them, as no visitor was likely to call 
at that time of evening- they were even more surprised when a total 
stranger announced he had come all the way from Moscow to see if they 
could make for him photographs of the strange energy which he had 
heard they alone could make visible on film. From his brief case the 
stranger pulled the two identical leaves and handed them to the Kirlians. 

Excited at the prospect that their discovery was to be put to an official 
test, the Kirlians stayed up till after midnight, but were disappointed to 
note that while they could make excellent pictures of energy flares from 
one of the leaves, they could get only a weak facsimile from the other. 
They worked on through the night, trying to get photos of the lumines¬ 
cence as similar as the leaves themselves, but were wholly unsuccessful. 

In the morning, crestfallen, they showed their results to the scientist, 
who shouted in amazement: “But you've found it! You’ve proven it 
photographically!" He explained that one leaf had been plucked from 
a healthy plant, the other from a diseased specimen. Although the two 
leaves appeared identical to the human eye, the pictures plainly differen¬ 
tiated between them. Illness was evidently manifest in a plant’s energy 
field before becoming visible as a symptom in its physical body. 

That plants, as well as animals and human beings, have fields of fine 
sheaths of subatomic or protoplasmic energy which permeate the solid 
physical bodies of molecules and atoms was a centuries-old allegation by 
seers and philosophers. This extra dimension or “aura" depicted in 
ancient iconography around the bodies of saints, with golden halos 

The Mystery of Plant and Human Auras 201 

around the heads, has been referred to by persons gifted with extrasen¬ 
sory perception since the beginnings of recorded history. By laying film 
or plate in contact with an object to be photographed and passing 
through the object an electric current from a high-frequency spark 
generator which put out 75,000 to 200,000 electrical pulses per second, 
the Kirlians had come across a way of photographing this “aura”—or 
something akin to it. 

Leaves from plants, sandwiched with film between the electrodes of 
their device, revealed a phantasmagoria hitherto restricted to clairvoy¬ 
ants, a micro-universe of tiny starry points of light. White, blue, and 
even red and yellow flares were pictured surging out of what seemed to 
be channels in the leaves. These emanations, or force fields round a ieaf, 
became distorted if the leaf was mutilated, gradually diminishing and 
disappearing as the leaf was allowed to die. The Kirlians were next able 
to magnify this luminescence by adapting their photographic processes 
to optical instruments and microscopes. Rays of energy and whirling 
fireballs of light appeared to shoot out of plants into space. 

The Kirlians also examined all kinds of “inanimate substances, in¬ 
cluding metal coins. Each had a different luminating pattern. Most 
interesting was the fact that while a two-kopeck coin showed only a 
constant glow around its edges, human fingertips seemed to shoot forth 
flaming energy in bursts like miniature volcanoes. 

After their photographic demonstration of pathology in the leaf from 
the sick plant for the Muscovite visitor, it was another ten years before 
the Kirlians began to emerge from obscurity in the USSR. 

In the early 1960s Dr. Lev Fedorov of the USSR’s Ministry of Public 
Health, struck by the possibilities of the new photography for medical 
diagnosis, awarded the Kirlians a first research grant but when Fedorov 
died soon thereafter, official funding from Moscow began to dwindle 

and academic skeptics were once more in control. 

It was only when a journalist took up the Kirlians story that interest 
was again aroused. “This situation,” wrote I. Belov, “is as bad as before 
the revolution, when the evil hand of Tsarist bureaucrats determined 
there was too much uncertainty in novelty. Twenty-five years have passed 
since the Kirlians made their discovery, yet the Ministries in charge still 
haven’t released the funds.” 


Belov s effort had its effects. In 1966, a conference bringing together 
many scientists interested in ail aspects of what was coming to be called 
“biological energy” was held in Alma Ata, capital of the Kazakh Repub¬ 
lic. In proceedings of the conference, entitled Problems in Bioenergetics, 
a Moscow biophysicist, Viktor Adamenko, joined with the Kirlians to 
author a seminal paper “On Research of Biological Objects in High- 
Frequency Electrical Fields.” The paper stressed the enormous difficul¬ 
ties of studying the spectrum of “electrobioluminescence” but added 
that when these are overcome, “we will be able to obtain important 
information about bioenergetic processes in a living organism.” 

For all the mounting Soviet interest, it was another three to four years 
before American science—which had branded as fake Wilhelm Reich’s 
1939 discovery of a life energy in plants and humans which he called 
orgone—paid attention to the new developments. What attracted this 
attention was not the Soviet scientific publications but a book, Psychic 
Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, by two North American journalists, 
Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder, which appeared in the summer 

of 1970. 

Excited by what she had read in the Ostrander-Schroeder volume, a 
former Broadway actress, now professor at the Neuropsychiatric Insti¬ 
tute of the University of California at Los Angeles, Thelma Moss, 

Ph.D., wrote to Russia and received an invitation to visit Professor 
Vladimir Inyushin at Alma Ata. 

Working with several colleagues, Inyushin had written up his research 
into the Kirlians work in 1968 in a book-long scientific paper: The 
Biological Essence of the Kirlian Effect Though Kirlian himself had 
maintained that the strange energy in his pictures was caused by “chang¬ 
ing the nonelectrical properties of bodies into electrical properties which 
are transferred to film,” Inyushin and his collaborators went several steps 
further. They declared that the bioluminescence visible in Kirlian pic¬ 
tures was caused not by the electrical state of the organism but by a 
^biological plasma body” which seemed to be only a new word for the 
etheric or astral body of the ancients. 

In physics plasma is defined today as an electrically neutral, highly 
ionized gas composed of ions, electrons, and neutral particles which has 
been called the “Fourth State of Matter” (after solids, liquids, gases), 

The Mystery of Plant anu Human Auras 203 

As far back as 1944, as the Allied armies were storming Forbes 
Europe,” a book by the Russian V. S. Grishchenko, The Fourth State 
of Mutter, appeared in French in Paris. Credit for coining the term 
bioplasma may thus belong to Grishchenko. The same year the discov¬ 
erer of “mitogenetic radiation,” A. G. Gurwitsch, published his book m 
Moscow entitled The Theory of a Biological Field, summing up twenty 

years of work. . 

Inside the “bioplasmic” body, said Inyushin, processes have their own 

labyrinthine motion, different from the energy pattern in the physical 
body yet the bioplasmic body is not a chaotic, but a whole unified 
organism which acts as a unit, is polarized, gives off its own electromag¬ 
netic fields, and is the basis for “biological” fields. 

When Thelma Moss arrived on an evening flight in Alma Ata, she 
was invited by Inyushin to visit his laboratory and lecture to his students. 
Elated, she went to sleep sure that she would be the first American 
scientist to visit a Soviet institution engaged in studying Kirlian photog¬ 
raphy The following morning when Inyushin came to pick her up at 
her hotel, he regretfully told her that “permission for the visit had not 

come from Moscow. , 

Moss was nevertheless able to leam from Inyushm that during six 

years of research with Kirlian photography he had been able to note that 

specific areas of the human body revealed characteristic colors which 

might prove significant in medical diagnoses. The clearest photos, he 

told Moss, were those taken at four o'clock in the afternoon the worst 

at midnight. When Moss asked Inyushin point-blank if his bioplasms 

body was what occult Western literature refers to as the “aura or the 

“astral” body, he said: “Yes!” „ , . 

In ancient philosophies and in Eastern and Theosophical teaching, 

the energy body which duplicates the human body is also called the 
etheric body, fluidic body, or prephysical body. It is believed to be the 
unifying agent for the material body, a magnetic area where ^material 
or subatomic vortices of the cosmos are transformed into the individual, 
the channel through which life communicates with the physical body, 
the medium for telepathic and clairvoyant projection. For decades scien¬ 
tists have been trying to find a way to make this body visible. 


While Moss was in Alma Ata, the eminent American psychiatrist 
Montague Ullman, director of the department of psychiatry at the 
Maimonides Medical Center in New York City, was simultaneously 
interviewing Viktor Adamenko in Moscow. 

Ullman was informed, somewhat to his surprise, that Adamenko and 
other Soviet scientists had been able to determine that the “bioplasma” 
not only undergoes a drastic shift when placed in a magnetic field but 
is concentrated at hundreds of points in the human body which seem 
to correspond to the ancient Chinese system of acupuncture points. 

Thousands of years ago the Chinese mapped seven hundred points on 
the human skin as paths along which they believed a life force or vital 
energy to circulate. The Chinese insert needles at these points to correct 
imbalances in the energy flow, and to cure disease. Spots where the 
Kirlian lights flared most brilliantly on a human body appeared to match 
the acupuncture points mapped by the Chinese. 

Adamenko is still unsure about Inyushin’s attribution of the 
phenomena to a “bioplasma body,” because there is as yet no “rigorous 
proof” of its existence, and therefore prefers to define the visible emana¬ 
tions as “a cold emission of electrons from the live object into the 

In the United States this “cold emission of electrons” is almost 
universally translated as a “corona discharge,” which is compared to the 
static electricity emitted by a person after walking across a carpet and 
touching a grounded metal. The name is derived from the faintly col¬ 
ored luminous ring which surrounds celestial bodies and is visible 
through a haze or thin cloud or the luminous irregular envelope of highly 
ionized gas outside the chromosphere of the sun. But giving it an 
academic name has explained neither its substance nor its function, 

As president of the American Society for Psychical Research, Ullman 
found it extremely interesting that Dr. Anatoli Podshibyakin, a Kiev 
electrophysiologist, had discovered that bioplasma, if that is what it is, 
instantly reacts to changes on the surface of the sun even though cosmic 
particles, ejected by the sun, take about two days to reach the earth. 

Many parapsychologists view man as an enmeshed, integral part of life 
on earth and in the universe. They maintain he is linked to the cosmos 

The Mystery of Plant and Human Auras 205 

via his bioplasm ic body, and reacts to changes in the planets aswellas 
to the moods and illnesses of others, to thought, emotion, sound, light, 
color, magnetic fields, the seasons, cycles of the moon, tides, thunder¬ 
storms, strong winds and even levels of noise. If there is a change in the 
universe and environment, say the parapsychologists, a resonance is 
produced in the vital energy of the human body which in turn affec s 
the physical body. It is through his bioplasmic body that parapsycholo¬ 
gists believe a man can be in direct contact with a living plant. 

Still another U S. parapsychological researcher, Dr. Stanley Krippner, 
director of the extraordinary Dream Laboratory at the Maimomdes 
Medical Center in New York—where pictures have been successfully 
directed at sleepers in order to produce in their minds destred dreams 
trekked to Russia in the summer of 1971. While in Moscow, Krippner 
was the first American invited to give an address on parapsychology 
to the Institute of Psychology in the Academy of Pedagogical Sciences. 
The lecture was attended by some two hundred psychiatrists, 
physicists, engineers, space scientists, and cosmonauts in training. 

Krippner found out that Genady Sergeyev, a neurophysiologist working 
at the Ukhtomskii Military Institute in Leningrad, had made Kirlran 
photographs of Nina Kulagina, a sensitive who can, by simply passing 
her hand over but not touching them, move paper clips, matches, 

cigarettes, and other objects on a table top. 

Sergeyev's photographs revealed that while Kulagina performs these 

psychokinetic feats, the “bioplasmic field” around her body expands and 
pulses rhythmically and a-ray of luminescence seems to shoot out of her 


In the fall of 1971 .WilliamA.Tiller, chief of the Materials Science 
Department at Stanford University (Palo Alto, California) and one of 
the world's experts on crystals, was the first American physicist invite 
by Edward Naumov, chief coordinator for Technical Parapsychology in 

Moscow, to investigate Kirlian photography in the USSR. 

Although, like Moss and Ullman, Tiller was not permitted to visit 
Soviet laboratories, he was able to spend several days with Adamenko. 
When he returned to the United States, Tiller recommended in a highly 
technical report that the Kirlian method and devices, among others, 


were “so important to parapsychological and medical investigations that 
attention should be focused on immediate construction of such devices 
and the duplication of the Soviet results." 

Tiller, who like Adamenko does not see the need for postulating any 
new “bioplasma," and substitutes for it the “cold emission of electrons," 
has been building extremely sophisticated equipment for taking Kirlian 
photographs in his Palo Alto laboratory. 

One of the first actually to make Kirlian-type pictures in the United 
States was Thelma Moss, who worked on the project with one of her 
students, Kendall Johnson. With their apparatus, Moss and Johnson 
were the first Americans to take color photos of leaves and pick up 
almost every region of the visible spectrum. American coins, appropri¬ 
ately enough, come out in red-white-and-blue, as do photos of the energy 
from the fingertips of the human hand. 

Henry C. Monteith, an electrical engineer in Albuquerque, New 
Mexico, working at home, put together an apparatus consisting of two 
6-volt batteries, a vibrator used to power automobile radios, and an 
ignition coil sold at all auto-supply stores. Like the Russians, Monteith 
found that a live leaf gave beautiful and varied self-emissions that cannot 
be adequately explained by conventional theory. He was further mys¬ 
tified when he discovered that a dead leaf gave, at most, only a uniform 
glow. Exposed to only 30,000 volts, the dead leaf did not reveal anything 
at all on film, even when bathed in water, but the live leaf shimmered 
in a radiance of self-emissions. 

As the potential implications of a photographic process in existence 
for more than thirty years—which seemingly gave substance to the 
notion of the existence of an aura, a subject considered by most Western 
scientists to be on the “lunatic fringe" of investigatory effort—began to 
be realized in the United States, demand mounted for more hard infor¬ 
mation. Stanley Krippner enlisted the cooperation of several financial 
backers and organized the First Western Conference on Kirlian Photog- 
raphy and the Human Aura in the spring of 1972 at Manhattan's United 
Engineering Center, where a crowd of doctors, psychiatrists, psycho¬ 
analysts, psychologists, parapsychologists, biologists, engineers and pho¬ 
tographers packed the ground-floor auditorium to overflowing. At the 

The Mystery of Plant and Human Auras 207 

conference startling pictures by Moss and Johnson were shown of a leaf 
before and after being pricked. Done with Kirlian techniques, the photo 
of the wounded leaf revealed an enormous blood-red pond of energy in 
its center which took the place of the bright azure and pinkish hue 

which showed up before the pricking. _ 

The mystery of the link between human emotional or psychic states 

and emanations radiating from the fingertips is deepened by Moss s 
further finding that pictures of both her own and Kendall Johnson s 

fingers differ from day to day and hour to hour. 

Since the photos of leaves change with variations in parameters, Moss 

conjectures that “at whatever frequency we take a picture, we are reso¬ 
nating or vibrating at the same frequency, with one particular aspect of 
the material; thus, not a whole picture, but different pieces of informa- 

tion are picked up.” 

Tiller speculated that the radiation or energy coming out ot a leaf or 
a human fingertip actually might be coming from whatever is present 
prior to the formation of solid matter. This, says Tiller, “may be another 
level of substance, producing a hologram, a coherent energy pattern ot 
a leaf which is a force-field for organizing matter to building itself into 

this kind of physical network.” 

Tiller thinks that even if part of the network were cut away, t e 
forming hologram would still be there. Apparently this is just what the 
Russians have been able to prove with a plant leaf. A picture pnnte in 
the Journal of Paraphysics (published in Downton, Wiltshire, England) 
shows a Russian Kirlian photograph of a leaf with one part cut away. Yet 
where nothing would show ordinarily, the outline of the missing part ot 

the leaf remains. , 

That this was not just Russian subterfuge was strikingly continued 

when Douglas Dean made photos of the fingertip of a New Jersey hea er, 

Ethel de Loach, whose files bulge with successful case histories One 

picture, taken while the healer was at rest, showed only a dark blue 

radiation streaming out of the skin and revealing the tip of the long nail. 

A second picture, shot when she was asked to heal, revealed in addition 

to the blue radiation an enormous orange and red flare leaping out o 

a point below the actual fingerprint. Both pictures were subsequently 


published on the cover of the medical journal Osteopathic Physician. 
Kirlian photos of faith healers reveal a smaller glow after healing, while 
those healed have greater emanations, indicating some sort of energy 
flow from the hands of the healer into the body of the patient, giving 
substance to Galvani’s and Mesmer's theory of “animal magnetism.” 

At the Human Dimensions Institute at Rosary Hill College in 
Buffalo, New York, one of the professors. Sister M, Justa Smith, a 
Catholic nun and biochemist, began thinking that healing energy com- 
mg from or through a healer s hands would have to affect the enzyme 
system before diseased cells could change to a state of health. Sister Justa 
—who had finished a doctoral dissertation proving that magnetic fields 
increase, while ultraviolet light decreases, enzyme activity—after engag¬ 
ing the cooperation of a healer, found that when he was in an “optimum 
psychological state,” or good mood, the energy coming from his hands 
could activate the pancreatic enzyme trypsin in a way which compared 
to the effects of a magnetic field measuring from 8,000 to 13,000 gauss. 
(Human beings normally live in a magnetic field of 0.5 gauss.) Sister 
Justa is continuing experimentation to find out whether a healer can 
activate other enzymes in the body and whether this activation can be 
of help to the maintenance of health. 

How magnetic fields affect life and how they might be related to the 

energy of the aura ’ is a mystery only beginning to be unveiled. In 

recent years scientists have found, for instance, that snails perceive 

extremely weak magnetic fields and, since they can also distinguish their 

direction, could be said to incorporate structures which behave like 
navigational compasses. 

Jan Merta, whose own projections of what he terms “auric energy” 
have not only turned dowsing devices held in a doctor’s hands against 
the doctor’s will and efforts to prevent it, but also so disturbed the 
magnetic components of the video tape recording the procedure that 
the film blacked out while supposedly recording a crucial sequence, has 
developed a whole theory about auras, part of which suggests that 
magnetic fields might significantly affect a learning process. Merta took 
thirty mice and housed them in small cages made of transparent plastic, 
len of them were exposed to the south pole, ten to the north pole, with 

The Mystery of Plant and Human Auras 209 

field strength of 5-10 gauss of a bar magnet. The third ten were left 
untreated. With an ingenious learning device Merta was able to estab¬ 
lish that those mice which had lived under the influence of a magnetic 
field were not only more active than the nonmagnetized mice, but 

somehow were able to learn quicker. 

It would seem that some correlation exists between the activity of the 
“bioplasmic” or “auric” fields—if that is what they are—around living 
things and their subjection to various types of radiation. Certainly there 
is no doubt, in light of the pioneering Soviet work and its American 
confirmation, that the health, physical or emotional, of plants and ani¬ 
mals can be objectified with the Kirlian technique. 

The main strength of the Russian research, according to Professor 
Tiller, is that “it has been able to provide us with detectors and devices 
with which we can begin to show cause-effect relationships between 
psycho-energetic phenomena and the kind of read-outs which our col¬ 
leagues find acceptable and that our logical system has come to accept 
as proof. We're at that stage of naivete that we need this proof.” 

The first Kirlian conference was so successful that a second meeting 
was held in New York's Town Hall in February 1973. One of the most 
striking presentations was that of Dr. John Pierrakos, a Greek-born 
psychiatrist who showed detailed drawings of auras which he can visually 
perceive around plants, animals and human beings and which he is able 
to monitor in continual movement around neurotically and psychotically 
disturbed patients. In her book Breakthrough to Creativity, published in 
1967, Shafica Karagulla, M.D., reported how many physicians use their 
observations of the human energy field in their diagnostic work. Because 
they were guarded about discussing their unusual abilities outside their 
own circle, Karagulla did not refer to any of them by name. Pierrakos 
is perhaps the first physician publicly to state that his perceptions of the 

human aura assist him in his diagnoses. 

“Man is an eternal pendulum of movement and vibration, Pierrakos 

told the Town Hall audience. “His spirit is captured in a body in which 
forces throb and pulsate like the beat of a heart. Often, they thunder 
and quake in his body with strong emotions that shake the very founda¬ 
tions of his physical being. Life goes on, rhythmically and quietly pulsat¬ 
ing with the warm feeling of love or cascading with avalanches of violent 


emotion, for movement and pulsation- is life. When movement dimi¬ 
nishes, the person becomes ill, and when the movement stops, the 
person is dying.” 

Pierrakos likened human bodies to time capsules in which biological 
functions are performed “for a century or so” after which the capsule 
changes the shape of its existence. “During this time, like the flower that 
brings the blossom and the seed that brings the flower and the fruit, 
man s time capsule has to become aware of what is going on within and 
without. To do so, asserted Pierrakos, we must describe and under¬ 
stand, fuse and integrate two attributes: life energy and consciousness 

the former seen as the aura around the body with gradations similar 
to that of the atmosphere which thins as it proceeds outward from the 
earth. Though to his Hellenic ancestors energy was “something produc¬ 
ing movement, Pierrakos holds that this nebulous definition should be 
made more precise. Energy is a living force emanated by conscious¬ 
ness, he suggests. By observing the energetic field emanating from the 
body not unlike the steam over boiling water which, correctly ob¬ 
served, gives an idea of the water's nature—I get an idea of what is 
happening in the body/' Pierrakos said. 

In his pictures, Pierrakos illustrated the three layers he sees around 

most of his patients. The first, a dark band no more than one-sixteenth 

to one-eighth of an inch thick, lies close to the skin and looks like a 

transparent crystalline structure. The second, a broader dark blue layer, 

reminiscent of a cluster of iron filings, forms an ovoid envelope around 

the body when seen from the front. The third is a lightish blue haze of 

radiant energy which, when the patient is in good health, extends several 

feet away from the body and accounts for why we describe happy zestful 
persons as “radiant” 

Pierrakos also showed how in patients with disturbances there are 
interruptions in these layers and changes in their colors of which he can 
see only the grosser aspects. When a psychotic patient told Pierrakos 
that she was “secure” because another person stood next to her con¬ 
stantly “on guard,” he asked her to let him see this other person. All at 
once he noticed a mass of light blue-gray energy in the shape of a human 
o°dy next to his patient. 

The energy field of plants can also be severely affected by disturbed 

The Mystery of Plant and Human Auras 211 

patients, says Pierrakos. “In some experiments with plants conducted in 
my office with Dr. Wesley Thomas, we found that a chrysanthemum s 
field contracts markedly when a person shouts at it from a distance of 
five feet and loses its blue-azure color, while its pulsat.ond.min.shes to 
one third. In repeated trials, keeping live plants more than two hours 
daily near the heads of screaming patients (a distance of three 
away), the lower leaves started falling down and the plant withered 

within three days and died ” 

Pierrakos related that the number of pulsations the energy field emits 
per minute is also an indication of the internal state of a human being_ 
The pulsations are much slower in older persons than in children, and 

in sleep than in wakefulness. , , , i 

Since the direction of the flow of energy on the front of the body 

Starts in the midriff and proceeds downward in a sort of curving L toward 

one of the legs and upward in an inverted L to the opposite shoulder, 

then reverses this flow on the back side of the body, the whole energy 

pattern around the body forms a figure 8. Put together in symbolic form 

the two pairs of L shapes, front and back, have from time immemona 

been represented in cultures throughout the world as the swastika, a 

Sanskrit word for * well-being. , D . 

The same kind of energy field observable in humans is seen by i - 

rakos macrocosmically over the ocean with miles-high fountains of radia¬ 
tion bursting forth from narrower bands of pulsation below. Since the 
amount of activity in this earthly aura plotted by Pierrakos against the 
time of day reveals the lowest ebb just after midnight and theTnghes 
shortly following noon, this directly correlates with Rudolph Steiner s 
account of how the chemical ether is exhaled and inhaled by our planet. 

A research team of physicists and electronics specialists is currently 
seeking to objectify Pierrakos’ “sensitive” sight. Under the auspices of 
the Center for Bio-Energetic Analysis they are developing a means of 
detecting the radiations of the human animal and plant auras with a 
sensitive photomultiplier tube, an instrument which measures photons 
or light energy from the "etheric” field around a body. In a preliminary 
report they stated in Town Hall that, to date, their work indicates 
strongly that human beings radiate a strange field, detectable by the 
tube, the properties of which remain to be analyzed and explained. 


Pierrakos, who can also see the energy pumping forth from plants and 
trees, warns of the danger of comparing the phenomena revealed by 
Kirlian photography to known radiations such as X-rays. “The study of 
the aura could become completely mechanized and objectified without 
reference to the great phenomena of life within the entity/' he says. 

In this observation Pierrakos is not far from the philosopher-math¬ 
ematician Arthur M. Young, inventor of the Bell helicopter, who 
stresses that in back of the whole hierarchy of active energies, known 
or unknown, may lie intent. “Content requires substance,” says Young, 
“whether by reference to actual physical objects or to human feelings 
or emotion. Substance is indeed what the work connotes, that which 
stands under —sub stance —the interactions of the physical world. To 
the physicist this is energy. To the human being it is motivation. ” 

Through motivation or intent, or some other agency of will, is it 
possible for living forms to effect changes in their own physical systems? 
Is it possible for plants and men—which materialists assert are only 
renderable at death into so much compost, soap, or chemicals—to grow 
the way they want? 

In the Soviet Union, a country which was originally founded on the 
most materialist of philosophies, the developments resulting from Kir¬ 
lian photography have raised certain profound questions about the true 
nature of life—vegetal, animal and human—about mind and body, 
about form and substance. Thelma Moss believes that research in the 
field has actually become of such great scientific importance to both the 
Russian and U.S. governments that they are keeping their official efforts 
strictly secret. Nevertheless, a spirit of friendly rivalry and of cooperation 

has arisen between groups, thus far small, of Russian and American 

As Semyon Kirlian put it in a letter to the First Western Conference 
to take up the implications of his work, “the new research will have such 
enormous significance that an impartial assessment of the methods will 
be carried out only by minds in succeeding generations. The possibilities 
are immense; indeed, they are practically inexhaustible.” 

The Mystery of Plant and Human Auras 213 



Soil: The Staff of Life 

Despite Carver s prescient observations on how to bring life back to the 
cotton-debased soils of Alabama by rotating crops and fertilizing the soil 
with natural humus, the farmers of that state—and those in every other 
state of the Union—have since Carver's death been lured by the promise 
of large profits to deal with the land, not in a natural, but in an artificial 
way in order to force from it every ounce of productivity. Instead of 
exerting patient and tender efforts to keep their soils in natural balance 
they have been seeking to subjugate nature rather than cooperate with 
ber. Everywhere there are indications that in the process of being raped 
rather than loved, nature is protesting. If the process goes on, the victim 

may die of bitterness and indignation, and with her all that she nurtures. 

An example—one among thousands—is Decatur, Illinois, a farming 
community in the heart of the United States cornbelt. As the summer 
of 1966 was drawing to a close, steamingly hot and sultry, the corn stood 
in the fields as high as an elephant’s eye, promising a bumper crop in 
every direction, perhaps eighty to a hundred bushels to the acre. In the 
twenty years since World War II the farmers had almost doubled the 
land’s yield in corn by the use of nitrate fertilizers, unaware of the deadly 

danger they were courting. 

The following spring one of Decatur’s seventy-eight thousand towns- 
men —whose living depended indirectly on the success of the corn 
harvest—noticed that a cup of drinking water from his kitchen faucet 
tasted funny.. As the water was supplied directly from Lake Decatur, an 
impoundment of the Sangamon River, he took a sample to the Decatur 
Health Department for testing. Dr. Leo Michl, a Decatur health official, 
was alarmed to find that concentrations of nitrate in the waters of Lake 
Decatur and the Sangamon River itself were not only excessive but 

potentially lethal. 

Nitrate, in itself innocuous to the human physical constitution, can 
become deadly when converted by intestinal bacteria; these combine 
nitrate with the blood’s hemoglobin into methemoglobin, which pre¬ 
vents the natural transport of oxygen in the bloodstream. This can cause 
a disease known as methemoglobinemia, which kills by asphyxiation; 
infants are particularly susceptible to it. Many cases of the mysterious 

epidemics of “crib death” are now attributed to it 

When a Decatur newspaper ran a feature suggesting that the city s 
water supply had become polluted with excessive nitrate and that fertil¬ 
izers being poured on the surrounding cornfields might be the source of 
the trouble, the story exploded like a bombshell in the cornbelt com¬ 
munities. At the time of the water analysis, farmers were resorting 
almost exclusively to nitrogen fertilizer as the cheapest, and indeed the 
only, means to produce over eighty bushels of corn to the acre, an 
amount dictated by the economics of com production as necessary to 
realize a profit. Com, or maize as it is known in the English-speaking 
world outside North America, is a heavy consumer of nitrogen, which, 


under natural conditions, is stored in the soil as a part of its humus, a 
brown-black material composed almost wholly of decayed vegetable 

For countless ages before man began to till the soil, humus was 
accumulated by return to the soil of vegetation which died and rotted. 
When man began to harvest crops he saw to it that humus, rich in 
nitrogen and other elements upon which plants depend, was replaced 
in the form of animal wastes and straw, the components of barnyard 
manure. In many countries of the Far East, man’s own excrement, 
euphemistically termed “night soil” by Westerners, is applied to the 

land instead of being allowed to float away through sewage systems into 

An almost inexhaustible supply of such a natural manure is still avail¬ 
able to Decatur in nearby Sioux City, Iowa, America's heartland city on 
the Missouri River, where millions of animals have been fed and slaugh¬ 
tered and from which they have been shipped to the nation's retail 
markets for over half a century, A pile of steer manure has accumulated 
longer than a football field. This mountain of organic waste, which poses 
a headsplitting disposal problem to the city fathers, could easily be 
processed into natural soil-enlivening products were anyone interested 
in saving the soil. Nor is the Sioux City manure pile an exception. Dr. 
T. C. Byerly, leader of the USDA’s waste-disposal programs, states that 
wastes from livestock operations in the United States are presently equal 

to those produced by the entire U.S. population and that by 1980 they 
will double in size. 

Instead of returning this natural humus-nitrogen to the soil, the 
farmers chose to apply artificial nitrogen fertilizers. In Illinois alone the 
consumption rose from ten thousand tons in 1945 to well over half a 
million tons in 1966, and is rising constantly. Since the amount of 
nitrogen applied is more than the com can naturally take up, the excess 
washes out of the soil into the local rivers: in the case of Decatur, all 
the way into the drinking cups of citizens. 

foe Nichols, a physician and surgeon who founded the Natural Food 
Associates in Atlanta, Texas, reported that a survey on farms throughout 
the Middle West disclosed that the corn growth was so heavily fertilized 

Soil: The Staff of Life 219 

with synthetic nitrogen that it was unable to convert carotene into 
vitamin A and that the cattle feed produced from it was also deficient 
in vitamins D and E. Not only were the cattle not gaining weight but 
they were not even reproducing as well as they should have, and, as a 
result, the fanners were losing money. When certain strains of corn were 
cut for silage, the nitrate content was so high the silos blew up and the 
juice that ran out killed every cow, duck, and chicken unfortunate 
enough to drink it. Even when silos did not explode, the nitrogen-laden 
com in them became lethal, in the form of nitrous oxide fumes sufficient 

to kill a man unsuspectingly breathing it. 

The swirl of controversy which broke upon the Illinois cornbelt when 

the truth became public had already arisen in scientific circles when Dr 

Barry Commoner, director of the Center for the Biology of Natural 

Systems at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, presented a 

prophetic paper on the relation between nitrogen fertilizer and the 

nitrate level in Midwestern rivers at 

Association for the Advancement of Science. Two weeks later, a vice- 
president of the National Plant Food Institute, a lobby whose goal is to 
protect the interests of the $2-billion American fertilizer industry, sent 
copies of Commoner's paper for rebuttal to soil experts at nine major 
universities. Because they had spent most of their careers advising farm¬ 
ers that the best way to insure bountiful crops is to apply artificial 
fertilizers to the land, many scientists in these centers of academic 
learning were as irritated at Commoner's allegations as were the fertiliz¬ 
er-lobby officials and rushed to take up cudgels in the lobby's and their 

own defense. v ,, 

An exception was Washington University's Dr. Daniel H. Kohl an 

expert in the process of photosynthesis, who concluded that the problem 
was so serious the fate of the planet might be at stake. When he joined 
Dr. Commoner to ascertain, by isotopic analysis, exactly what was hap¬ 
pening to the excess nitrogen fertilizer in Illinois soils, his efforts were 
immediately and viciously attacked by his departmental colleagues on 
the grounds that such work was not a proper part of the department s 

goal of pure research. 

Dr. Commoner in his book The Closing Circle challenged his aca- 


demic colleagues by pointing out that the new technology allowing more 
com to be produced on less acreage than before might be a success 
economically but was ecologically a disaster. Commoner characterized 
the nitrogen-fertilizer industry in its hurtling dash for profits as one of 
the “cleverest business operations of all time.” Evidence suggests that 
in the presence of artificial nitrogen, the natural fixation of nitrogen 
from the air by soil bacteria stops and, as a result, it is increasingly 
difficult for farmers to give up the use of the artificial product. Like 
addictive drugs, fertilizer nitrogen creates its own demand, the buyers 
having been “hooked” on the product. 

Dr. William Albrecht, a professor of soil science at the University of 
Missouri, who, more than a quarter of a century ago was almost single- 
handedly struggling to stress the importance of healthy soil to crops, 
animals, and men, states that, with respect to analyzing fodder, cows are 
more intelligent than people. Regardless of how tall and green forage 
look to the eye when grown with an excess of artificial nitrogen, says 
Albrecht, the cow will refuse it and will eat the surrounding grass shorter 
and shorter. Though the cow cannot classify forage crops by variety 

name, or by tonnage yield per acre, she is more expert than any biochem¬ 
ist at assessing their nutritional value.” 

Albrecht's years of research were admired by the director of studies 
of France's National Veterinary School at Alfort, near Paris, Dr. Andre 
Voisin. In 1959 Dr. Voisin produced a book, Soil , Grass and Cancer , 
which was translated into English by the secretary of the Irish Agricul¬ 
tural Organization Society and published by New York’s Philosophical 
Library. The thrust of Voisin’s important work is that man, in his effort 
to produce food for an exploding world population, has forgotten that 
his body comes from soil or, as the Bible put it, “dust and ashes.” 

Voisin s realization that plants and animals are intimately associated 
with the soil where they are born was strengthened when he visited the 
Ukraine and saw that, within a few generations, the giant dappled 
Percheron draft horses, developed on the soils of a French district south 
o Normandy, had dwindled to the size of Cossack horses, though their 
bloodlines had been kept pure by the Soviets and their conformation 

mained the same, though miniaturized. This should remind us, says 

Soil: The Staff of Life 221 

Voisin, that all living things are biochemical photographs of their envi¬ 
ronment. Our ancestors, he says, were well aware of the fact that the 
dust of the soil itself is what finally determines vigor and health 
Developing his theme that the soil makes the plant, the animal, and 
man, Voisin exposed his readers to a fascinating panoply of data which 
illustrates that animals and plants on the land, not chemists in laborato¬ 
ries, are the supreme judges of agronomic methods. Voisin also provided 
copious examples to prove that, by itself, chemical analysis of foodstuffs, 
plants, and soil is wholly insufficient to the evaluation of their essence. 
Voisin points out that chemists work mainly on “analytical groups, 
which can be said to be “mere creations of their minds.” Noting that 
farmers have long been given advice on the nutrition of their animals 
on the basis of certain tests for nitrogen content, Voisin quotes the 1952 
Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, R. L. M. Synge, who stated that it was 
wholly presumptuous in this way to conclude anything about the rea 

nutritive qualities of grass, or human food. 

The dean of agriculture at the University of Durham in England was 

so impressed with Voisin s lecture to the British Society of Animal 

Production in 1957 that he summed it up for the assembled audience, 

saying: “As Monsieur Voisin has forcibly explained to us, a herbage 

which appears ideal to the chemist as judged by his analysis is not 

necessarily ideal for the cow. 

While Voisin was in England, he visited one farm on which the 
incidence of a disease known as grass tetany afflicting a 150-head herd 
of cattle was particularly high. Voisin learned from the farm owner that 
his livestock had been foraging, not on seasoned pastureland, but on new 
sowings of young grass to which enormous applications of industrial 
fertilizer, particularly potash, had been applied. Voisin told the farmer 
that when potash is applied to grass and other forage plants, the plants 
gorge themselves immediately and indulge in “luxury consumption.’ 
This results in an enormous increase of the potash content of the plants 
in a very short time and diminishes the quantity of other elements 
absorbed, such as magnesium, the lack of which leads directly to tetany. 

When a local veterinary arrived at the farm to care for some of the 
stricken animals, Voisin asked him whether he knew to what extent his 


client had employed potash to fertilize his grazing land. The animal 
doctor, who had no idea that he was talking to one of the most distin¬ 
guished French representatives of veterinary science, curtly replied: 
“This question concerns the farmer. My role is to care for sick animals 
and to cure them.” Voisin was aghast at this stock reply. “I think,” he 
wrote, “that it is not merely a question of healing the animal or man 
stricken by disease, it is necessary to heal the soil so as not to have to 
heal the animal or man.” 

To Voisin it appears that the rise of the artificial fertilizer industry 
has caused man mechanically and unthinkingly to rely to such an extent 
on its products that he has forgotten his intimate relationship with the 
soil as nature made it, that his adulteration of the dust from which he 
springs may be sealing his destiny on planet earth. Though this predica¬ 
ment is hardly a century old, its progression has been geometric in the 
proliferation of degenerative diseases in both animal and man conse¬ 
quent on the overuse of artificial fertilizers. 

It all started with Baron Justus von Liebig, a famous German chemist 
who published an essay in 1840, interestingly entitled Chemistry in Its 
Application to Agriculture and Physiology. In this essay he appeared to 
indicate that everything required by living plants was to be found in the 
mineral salts present in their ashes once the plants had been incinerated 
to destroy all the organic matter they contained. Though this theory ran 
directly counter to centuries of agricultural practice, and indeed to 
common sense, the visual results of the application of artificial fertilizers 
composed of nitrogen, phosphates, and potash, together with calcium 
oxide, or lime, seemed to prove Liebig’s theory, and later resulted in the 
skyrocketing climb of fertilizer production by the chemical industry, of 
which the figures for Illinois are but one example among thousands. 

Dr. Albrecht of the University of Missouri terms this sudden blind 
dependence upon nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, the main con¬ 
stituents of artificial fertilizers, or NPK—as they are known in chemistry 

an “ash mentality,” since ashes suggest the idea of death rather than 
life. Like a senile yet undeposable king, the ash theory still rules the 
world’s agricultural realms, despite the attack on it by a far-seeing 
minority of individuals, a group collectively called “organic agricultural- 

Soil: The Staff of Life 223 


ists,” who have seized upon Justus von Liebig as the progenitor of what 

they see as a worldwide cataclysm. 

Already at the turn of the century, as the fertilizer industry was 

getting into stride, a British doctor and medical researcher, Robert 
McCarrison, later knighted for his thirty years' service as head of the 
Nutrition Research Agency for the Imperial Government of India, and 
director of its Pasteur Institute at Coonoor, had come up with a contrary 
conclusion after spending a period of time working among the peoples 
of the remote Gilgit Agency, a rugged, mountainous area south of the 
Wakhand Valley, which is Afghanistan’s “tail.” 

McCarrison was struck by the fact that the Hunzas, an ancient people 
claiming descent directly from the soldiers of Alexander the Great, not 
only could walk 120 miles at a stretch in the roughest mountain country 
in the world, or cut two holes in a winter lake and swim from one to 
the other under the ice for the fun of it, but, with the exception of an 
occasional eye inflammation due to badly ventilated fires in their huts, 
were wholly free of disease and lived to a great age. McCarrison also 
found the Hunzas' health to be matched by their superior intelligence, 
wit, and urbanity; though they were numerically few and their neighbors 
warlike, they were rarely attacked—because they always won. 

As neighboring people living in the same climate and geographical 
conditions were afflicted with many diseases which never appeared 
among the Hunzas, McCarrison began a comparative study of the die¬ 
tary practices of Gilgit Agency peoples which he extended to various 
races all over India. By feeding diverse Indian diets to rats foolish 
enough to eat whatever humans will eat—McCarrison found that his 
rats reflected the conditions of growth, physique, and health of the 
people eating the same foods. The rats which ate the diets of the peoples 
such as the Pathans and Sikhs increased their body weight much faster 
and were much healthier than those ingesting the daily fare of peoples 
like Kanarese and Bengalis. When offered the food of the Hunzas, which 
was limited to grain, vegetables, and fruits, along with unpasteurized 
goat milk and the butter made from it, the rodents appeared to McCarri¬ 
son the healthiest ever raised in his laboratory. They grew rapidly, were 
apparently never ill, mated with enthusiasm, and had healthy offspring. 






When they were killed and autopsied at twenty-seven months_the 

equivalent of fifty-five years in humans—nothing whatsoever was wrong 
with their organs. Most amazing to McCarrison was the fact that 
throughout their lifetimes they were gentle, affectionate, and playful. 

Contrasted to these Hunza rats” others contracted precisely the 
diseases of the people whose diets they were being fed and even seemed 
to adopt certain of their behavioral characteristics. Illnesses revealed at 
autopsy filled a whole page. All parts of their bodies, from womb and 
ovary to skin, hair, and blood, and respiratory, urinary, digestive, nervous 
and cardiovascular systems, were afflicted. Moreover, many of them, 

snarling and vicious, had to be kept apart if they were not to kill each 

In laboratory work based on the newly discovered accessory food 
factors, named vitamins in 1921 by the Polish-bom American biochem¬ 
ist Casimir Funk, McCarrison was able to prove that pigeons given a diet 
which in people produces goiter developed polyneuritis. What was sur¬ 
prising to McCarrison was that other healthy birds fed on normal diets 
harbored the same microbes but did not get ill. McCarrison believed it 

was the faulty diet which led to the microbic triumph, not the presence 
of the microbes themselves. 

During a lecture to the British College of Surgeons McCarrison 
described how, in the course of more than two years, his rats fed on the 
diets of the more vigorous and well-developed Indian races never fell ill. 
But the British Medical Journal, in a leading article on McCarrison’s 
address, concentrated only on the diseases which diet would help to 
prevent and completely overlooked the astonishing fact that the radiant 
health of a group of people could be transferred dietarily to a group of 
rats, simply by diet. Doctors, used to textbook explanations that pneu¬ 
monia was due to exhaustion, chills, a blow on the chest, the pneumo¬ 
coccus microbe itself, weakness in old age, or other illnesses, were unim¬ 
pressed with McCarrison’s finding that, in every case, his Coonoor 
laboratory rats had fallen ill with pneumonia because of faulty food. The 
®me was true for diseases of the middle ear, peptic ulcers, and other 


American medical circles were no more receptive to the basic truth 

Soil: The Staff of Life 22$ 

which McCarrison was propounding than their British colleagues. Dur¬ 
ing a Mellon lecture delivered before the Society for Biological Research 
at the University of Pittsburgh, where McCarrison spoke on “Faulty 
Food in Relation to Gastro-Intestinal Disorders,” they listened impas¬ 
sively as he said of the Hunzas: “Indeed their buoyant abdominal health 
has since my return to the West, provided a remarkable contrast with 
the dyspeptic and colonic lamentations of our highly civilized communi¬ 
ties.” Then as now, the weight of McCarrison’s evidence that Hunzas 
enjoy a remarkably disease-free and long life failed to mobilize any 
medical-research expedition to Hunza land. His stunning data were 

buried in the Indian Journal of Medical Research. 

Only when a British doctor, G. T. Wrench, brought out a book. The 
Wheel of Health , in 1938 was McCarrison’s evidence given broad 
public exposure. In the introduction to his work Wrench asked thought- 
provokingly why, as students, young doctor aspirants were always pre¬ 
sented with sick or convalescent people for their teaching and never with 
the ultrahealthy. It was abhorrent to Wrench that medical schools— 
presuming that knowledge about health in its fullness was picked up by 
a baby at its birth—taught only disease. “Moreover,” wrote Wrench, 
“the basis of our teaching upon disease is pathology, namely the appear¬ 
ance of that which is dead from disease.” Then, as today, it seems the 
emphasis was on pathology , not natural health. Neither Wrench s admo 
nition nor the startling evidence of McCarrison—who after retiring as 
a major general became physician to King George V—seemed to have 
any effect on the health authorities of the United States and other 
countries. In 1949 Dr. Elmer Nelson, in charge of nutrition at the U.S. 
Food and Drug Administration, was reported by the Washington Post 
to have declared in court: “It is wholly unscientific to state that a 
well-fed body is more able to resist disease than a less well-fed body. My 
overall opinion is that there has not been enough experimentation to 
prove that dietary deficiencies make one more susceptible to disease. 

Some time before McCarrison arrived in the Gilgit Agency, Albert 
Howard a young mycologist and agricultural lecturer to the Impena 
Department of Agriculture at Barbados in the West Indies, concentrat¬ 
ing on fungus diseases of sugar cane, came to the conclusion that the 

true cause for plant diseases would never be found by researchers seques¬ 
tered in small laboratories and greenhouses full of flowerpots. As he put 
it: “In Barbados I was a laboratory hermit, a specialist of specialists, 
intent on learning more and more about less and less.” Because another 
part of his job was to tour the Windward and Leeward Islands and advise 
people on how to grow cacao, arrowroot, peanuts, bananas, citrus fruits, 
nutmegs, and a host of other plants, Howard found that he learned 
much more from men in actual contact with the land and its abundance 
than he ever had in his botany classes. 

He began to detect a fundamental weakness in the organization of the 
research into plant pathology. “I was an investigator of plant diseases,” 
he wrote, “but I had myself no crops on which 1 could try out the 
remedies I advocated. It was borne in on me that there was a wide chasm 
between science in the laboratory and practice in the field.” 

Howard's first big chance to combine theory and practice came in 
1905, when he was appointed imperial botanist to the Government of 
India. In the Bengali town of Pusa, site of the agricultural research 
station about to be founded by Lord Curzon, then Viceroy to India, 
Howard decided to see whether he could create, on a seventy-five-acre 
holding, plants with such health that they would not require poison 
sprays to resist disease. Howard took as his teachers, not learned plant 
pathologists, but the natives of the region. He felt that, since the crops 
grown by cultivators around Pusa were remarkably free of pests, he 

would make an in-depth study of Indian agricultural practices. As he put 
it, he “speedily found my reward.” 

By following the practices of the Indians, who used no pesticides or 
artificial fertilizers but returned to the land carefully accumulated ani¬ 
mal and vegetal wastes, Howard was so successful that by 1919 he had 
learned “how to grow healthy crops, practically free from disease, with¬ 
out the slightest help from mycologists, entomologists, bacteriologists, 
apicultural chemists, statisticians, clearing-houses of information, artifi¬ 
cial manures, spraying machines, insecticides, fungicides, germicides, 

and all the other expensive paraphernalia of the modern experimental 

Howard was further astonished that his herd of work oxen, the ordi- 


Soil: The Staff of Life 227 

nary power unit of Indian agriculture, when fed only the produce from 
his fertile land, never came down with foot-and-mouth disease, rinder¬ 
pest, septicemia, and other cattle diseases, which frequently devastated 
herds of the modem experimental stations. "None of my animals were 
segregated,” he wrote; "none were inoculated; they frequently came into 
contact with diseased stock. As my small farmyard at Pusa was only 
separated by a low hedge from one of the large cattle-sheds on the Pusa 
estate, in which outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease often occurred, 1 
have several times seen my oxen rubbing noses with foot-and-mouth 
cases. Nothing happened. The healthy, well-fed animals failed to react 
to this disease exactly as suitable varieties of crops, when properly grown, 
did to insect and fungous pests—no infection took place. 

Howard recognized that the entire basis for eliminating disease in 
plants and animals was the fertility of the soil and that the first prerequi¬ 
site for all subsequent work was the bringing of the whole Pusa experi¬ 
ment station to the highest state of fertility. To do this he determined 
to copy the age-long practices of China and build a large-scale system 

for utilizing farm wastes to turn them into humus. 

Unfortunately, while the idea was taking shape in his mind, the Pusa 

agricultural research organization had developed to the point where, as 
Howard saw it, 

A series of watertight compartments-plant breeding, mycology, en¬ 
tomology, bacteriology, agricultural chemistry and practical a^iculture- 
had become firmly established. Vested intents were createdwhiclire 
carded the organization as more important than its purpose. There was 
no room in it for a comprehensive study of soil fertility and its many 
implications by one member of the staff with complete freedom of actom 
Mv proposals involved “overlapping,” a defect which was anathema bo* 
to the official mind (which controlled finance) and to a research institute 

subdivided as Pusa always had been. 

Howard therefore laboriously collected funds to found a new center 
the Institute of Plant Industry, at Indore, three hundred miles northeas 
of Bombay, where he had complete freedom of action. Since the funda¬ 
mental prerequisite for growing cotton, the principal commercial crop 
around Indore, was raising soil fertility, Howard was in his element. He 


accordingly developed what came to be known as the “Indore process” 
of humus production. Within a short time he found not only that the 
yields of his cotton were three times those of the surrounding country¬ 
side but that the cotton was remarkably free of diseases. “These results,” 
Howard later wrote, “were progressive confirmation of the principle I 
was working out—the connection between land in good heart and dis¬ 
ease-free crops; they were proof that as soon as land drops below par, 
disease may set in.” Howard was firmly convinced that the two most 
important goals were to keep the texture of his soils right and not to 
overwork his land beyond a volume of operations for which it had 
sufficient natural reserves. 

Based on his findings, Howard wrote a book, The Waste Products of 
Agriculture: Their Utilization as Humus, which was greeted with favora¬ 
ble and even enthusiastic reviews around the world. But, when the book 
was circulated to agricultural scientists working on cotton problems in 
research stations all over the British Empire, the reception was hostile 
and even obstructive. This was because Howard’s successful methodol¬ 
ogy challenged the ingrained beliefs that breeding methods alone could 
improve cotton yields and the quality of plant fibers, and disease was to 
be reduced by direct assault with pesticides. 

Furthermore, the time factor was ridiculed. How could one possibly 
waste several years bringing the land back into what Howard called 
“good heart”? This would demand the abandonment of chemical fertil¬ 
izers and the time-consuming production of Indore compost, a mixture 
of decaying animal and plant matter at a ratio of three to one. Howard 
clearly saw the threat he posed to the established order: “The production 
of compost on a large scale might prove to be revolutionary and a 
positive danger to the structure and perhaps to the very existence of a 
research organization based on the piecemeal application of the separate 
sciences to a complex and many sided biological problem like the pro¬ 
duction of cotton.” 

Research workers on many other crops throughout the Empire took 
the same dour view as that of the cotton specialists and they were 
strongly supported by the moguls of the burgeoning artificial fertilizer 
and pesticide industries. 

Soil: The Staff of Life 229 

When Howard went home to England at the end of 1935, he was 
invited by the students of the School of Agriculture at Cambridge 
University to address them on “The Manufacture of Humus by t e 
Indore Method.” Because he had distributed printed copies of his re¬ 
marks beforehand in order to insure that a lively discussion would follow 
his lecture, practically the whole staff of the school was present when 
he mounted the lecture platform. But since he had been so consistently 
attacked by plant specialists in England, India, and other parts of the 
world, it was no surprise to Howard that nearly all of the school's faculty 
from chemists to plant breeders to pathologists heatedly oppose is 
remarks. Only the student body seemed enthusiastic and, as Howard 
recalled, vastly amused at finding their teachers on the defensive and 
vainly endeavoring to bolster up the tottering pillars supporting their 
temple. “Here again I was amazed by the limited knowledge and experi¬ 
ence of the world's agriculturists disclosed by this debate. I felt was 
dealing with beginners and that some of the arguments put forward 
could almost be described as the impertinences of ignorance. It was 
obvious from this meeting that little or no support for organic farming 
would be obtained from the agricultural colleges and research institutes 

of Great Britain. 

Howard was correct. When later he read to the British Farmers Club 
a paper on “The Restoration and Maintenance of Fertility,” representa¬ 
tives of experimental stations and of the fertilizer industry in the audi¬ 
ence poured ridicule on his ideas. To their protestations Howard replied 
that he would shortly have his answer “written onto the land itself 
Two years later Sir Bernard Greenwell, who had meticulously followed 
Howard’s directions on his two estates, gave an account to the club 
which more than bore out Howard’s findings. But the scientists and the 
fertilizer salesmen, knowing that success was the one unanswerable 
argument in favor of organic farming, failed to attend the lecture^ 
Despite the truculence of these vested interests, Howard, like McCar- 
rison was knighted by the British Crown for his achievements. Yet only 
a few sensible individuals began to follow his lead. One of these was Lady 
Eve Balfour, who since childhood had suffered bad bouts of rheumatism 
and continual head colds each winter from November to April. Learning 


of Howard s research just before World War II, she initiated an Indore- 
type operation on her own farm at Haughley in Suffolk. Instead of 
bakers loaves she ate bread made only from whole-grain flour ground 
from her own compost-benefited wheat. During the winter following the 
change in her overall diet, she was entirely free from colds for the first 
time in her life and was no longer bothered with rheumatic pains in 
prolonged periods of cold, damp weather. 

During the war, Lady Eve s book The Living Soil appeared in heavily 
rationed England. The result of long detective work in libraries and 
interviews with health specialists who were convinced of the soundness 
of Howard s and McCarrison s views, it amassed a compendium of 
scattered data on the links between humus-grown plants and the health 
of animals and humans fed upon them. Lady Eve compared man's 
prideful “conquest of nature” with the conquest of Europe taking place 
under the Nazis. “As Europe is in revolt against the tyrant,” she wrote, 
“so is nature in revolt against the exploitation of man.” 

Lady Eve soon discovered that her piglets, attacked at the age of one 
month by a disease called white scour, which the textbooks explained 
was due to iron deficiency, and for which accordingly they recom¬ 
mended doses of chickweed or other plants rich in that element, could 
be cured equally effectively by being fed actual soil from fields rich in 
humus to which no chemical fertilizers had been applied, whereas soil 

from land exhausted from the application of fertilizers had no effect 
upon the disease’s progress. 

About the same time Friend Sykes, a British farmer and breeder of 
thoroughbred horses, attracted by Howard's ideas, bought a 750-acre 
derelict farm in Wiltshire at nearly one thousand feet altitude, overlook¬ 
ing the Salisbury Plain, on which the land had been completely farmed 
out. Sykes's previous experience as an agricultural consultant had taught 
him that specialized farms, on which only certain crops or one variety 
of animals were raised, resulted in the inevitable weakening of stock and 
Plants by disease. He came to see that outbreaks of disease could be 
completely eradicated by an “enlightened practice of good husbandry,” 
particularly the introduction of mixed agriculture. 

A student of ecology long before the subject became a household 

Soil- The Staff of Life 231 

word and an opponent of DDT more than ten years before Rachel 
Carson shocked the world with her Silent Spring, Sykes wrote in his 
Food, Farming and the Future, published in 1951: "The first thing that 
Nature does when she has been treated with poison is to battle against 
it and try to breed a resistant strain of the form of life that is being 
attacked. If the chemist persists in his poisonous methods, he often has 
to invent more and stronger poisons to deal with the resistance that 
Nature sets up against him. In this way, a vicious cycle is created. For, 
as a result of the conflict, pests of a hardier nature and poisons still more 
powerful are evolved; and who is to say that, in this protracted struggle, 
man himself may not ultimately be involved and overwhelmed?” 

Sykes’s experience with his crops, based on his intuition that the soil 
had a latent fertility which could be brought out simply by being tended, 
and without the application of any fertilizer whatsoever, was little short 
of fantastic. Sykes had the soil on one twenty-six-acre field analyzed. The 
laboratory report indicated severe deficiencies of lime, phosphate, and 
potash and appended a recipe of artificial fertilizers to correct the condi- 


Ignoring the report, Sykes simply plowed and harrowed his field and, 
without adding any fertilizer, sowed oats. To the amazement of his 
neighbors he got a crop yielding ninety-two bushels per acre, which was 
followed by an equally successful crop of wheat. After tilling the soil 
again throughout the summer, he again sent a sample of it to the 
laboratory and found that only a deficiency of phosphorus remained, the 
lime and potash having been completely restored. In spite of the unani¬ 
mous views of experts that cereal crops could not be successfully grown 
without a heavy dressing of phosphates, Sykes merely subsoil plowed the 
acreage and achieved a harvest of wheat larger than the first one. Subsoil 
plowing digs deeper into the ground and aerates this otherwise packed 
and useless earth. When Sykes ordered his subsoiler plow in Chantry, 
the agent who took his order said: "What on earth do you want a tool 
like that for in this God-forsaken country? My firm has been in business 
over a hundred years and has never supplied such an implement before. 
Sykes’s wheat crop, which had been undersown with rye grasses an 
clover, produced two and a half tons of hay to the acre in one cut th£ 


following year. Sykes then replowed his land, planted it to oats, and was 
rewarded with a crop yielding over one hundred bushels to the acre. A 
third laboratory analysis of his soil showed no deficiencies whatsoever. 

Sykes described this procedure in an essay, “Farming for Profit with 
Organic Manures as the Sole Medium of Re-Fertilization,” in which he 
concluded that he had made his livestock healthy, his plants disease free 
without poison sprays, and had been able to plant the same varieties of 
wheat, barley, and oats from their seeds six consecutive years in a row 
although other farmers had had to make changes. 

Having achieved among his other successes a reversal of the trend in 
seed degeneration which has led to increasing dependence by farmers 
on hybrid varieties that are of questionable nutritional value, Sykes 
teamed with Lady Eve Balfour and others to form the Soil Association, 
the principal object of which was to unite people, of whatever country, 
working for a fuller understanding of the vital relationships among the 
soil, plants, animals, and man. Its philosophy centered on the idea that, 
when quality is sacrificed to quantity, total food supply diminishes. 

The Soil Association began a research project on land donated in 
Suffolk, the referees for which stated: 

Humanity has been badly frightened by the invention of the atomic 
bomb. Yet the slower but more widespread devastation wrought by ex¬ 
hausting the soil upon which we depend for subsistence, is ignored by the 
majority of people, who think of calamity only in terms of disaster or war. 
Wasteful exploitation of the soil’s fertility is due in part to the desire for 
quick cash returns, but in a greater degree to ignorance. Many scientists 
and agriculturalists now realize that their knowledge of the natural pro¬ 
cesses underlying soil fertility is incomplete. They recognize that these 
processes are only partly explicable in terms of agricultural chemistry and 
that the purely inorganic approach to the study of soil science is a line 
of thought as dead as the mechanical determination of nineteenth-cen¬ 
tury physics. “Dead” is the appropriate word; for the missing factor is that 
of life itself. 

Shortly before the organization of the Soil Association in Britain, 
J- I. Rodale, editor of a health magazine in Pennsylvania, also came 
across the work of Sir Albert Howard. “To say I was stunned,” wrote 
Rodale afterward, “would be a definite understatement. Surely the way 

Soil: The Staff of Life 233 

food is grown has something to do with its nutritional quality. Yet this 
theory had not found its way into the articles of any of the health 
magazines I was reading. To physicians and nutrition specialists carrots 
were carrots were carrots/' In 1942 Rodale bought a farm of his own 
in Emmaus, Pennsylvania, and set about publishing Sir Albert Howard's 
book, An Agricultural Testament He then launched a journal, Organic 
Gardening and Farming, which today, after three decades of growth, has 
some 850,000 subscribers. A companion magazine to enlighten the 
public on the links between health and organically grown foods, called 
Prevention , was started by Rodale in 1950 and now circulates to over 
one million readers increasingly anxious about the quality of American 


For his efforts in fighting for integrity in foods Rodale was harassed 
by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which sought to stop the sale 
of his book The Health Finder because it was advertised as being able 
to “help the average person to remain comparatively free of many 
terrible diseases." Rodale fought the case in court in a battle which cost 
him nearly a quarter of a million dollars. He won hands down but was 
not able to sue the government to recoup his losses. 

Rodale's campaign began to challenge the usual view of people living 
in the cities and suburbs of the United States and this is the vast 
majority—-that soil is a static, inert substance. He challenged the use of 
the word dirt as a synonym in English for soil. The former is used to 
mean something mean, contemptible, or vile, whereas soil is alive and 


Below its surface the earth teems with organisms. Earthworms, called 
Annelida after the Latin word for rings, because they are made of one 
hundred to two hundred ringlike segments, each an independent niinia- 
ture body, burrow in the ground to depths of more than the height of 
a tall man, acting as nature's plow, eating the soil as they move, ejecting 
it again as castings to produce rich topsoil. Called by Aristotle the 
“intestines of the soil," they could also be considered its vascular system, 
since, when they are lacking, soils get hard-packed as if their arteries had 


In 1881, a year before his death, Charles Darwin brought out a book, 
The Formation of Vegetable Mould through the Action of Worms, in 

which he made the statement that, without worms, vegetation would 
degenerate to the vanishing point. He estimated that in a single year 
more than ten tons of dry earth per acre passed through the digestive 
systems of earthworms and that in a field well populated with them one 
inch of topsoil would be created every five years. Darwin's earthworm 
book moldered on the shelf for fifty years before it was re-examined; even 
then his ideas did not penetrate into the curricula of the agricultural 
schools, and it is not realized that with heavy application of chemical 
fertilizers and pesticides, a field can lose its entire earthworm population, 

so important for keeping it in a state of health necessary to the produc¬ 
tion of nutritious crops. 

The favorable action of earthworms is often mocked, though in an 
experiment run about 1950 their ability to improve poor soil was defi¬ 
nitely demonstrated. Twenty barrels were filled with impoverished soil 
and planted with grass. Half the barrels contained live, the other half 
dead, worms so that all shared identical amounts of organic matter. Each 
barrel was treated with an equal amount of organic fertilizer. The barrels 
with the live worms produced four times as much grass. 

Just after World War I, Dr. William Beebe, first to explore the ocean 
in a bathysphere, decided after a bird-collecting expedition in Brazil that 
he needed something to do on the sea journey back to New York: so he 
decided to examine jungle soil. Working on shipboard with a magnifying 
glass and an old bag of earth mold and decaying leaves, Beebe found 
himself plunged into a strange world of miracles. By the time he reached 
New York Harbor Beebe had discovered in his soil over five hundred 

separate specimens of life; he believed that more than twice as many 
remained to be identified. 

If Beebe had resorted to the microscope, and thus come across bac¬ 
teria, he would have been helpless to count them. Sir E. John Russell, 
m his book Soil Conditions and Plant Growth , says that in one tiny gram 
of soil treated with farmyard manure there are some twenty-nine million 
acteria; however, where chemical fertilizers were used, the number was 
cut almost in half. In an acre of rich earth, bacteria are estimated to 
weigh more than a quarter of a ton; as they die, their bodies become 
converted to humus, enriching the soil in a natural way. 

In addition to bacteria are myriads of other microscopic organisms: 

Soil: The Staff of Life 235 


actinomycctes, filamentous forms resembling both bacteria and fungi; 
tiny algae, related to seaweeds; protozoa, animals made up o a 1 g 
cell apiece; and the strange chlorophyll-less fungi themselves, ranging 
from one-celled forms to branched bodies, including yeasts, molds, and 

m Th^vegetative part of one kind of fungus associates with the roots 
of many green plants in a way beneficial to both that is still mysterious^ 
Though it seems to have reaped the attention of many agncultural 
scientists, these fungi, called “mycorrhizae," were discovered by _ 

M. C. Rayner in England to have their threads consumed by tree too 
with which they were associated. Traveling m France, Sir Albert How¬ 
ard found that the roots of the healthiest vines for wine grapes were rich 
in mycorrhizae. No artificial fertilizers had ever been used on the vines, 

yet they were noted for the high quality of their wines. 

Another great advantage of natural agriculture, well known to yester¬ 
day’s farmer, has been forgotten in the highly specialized mono-crop 
agriculture of today: the advantage of symbiosis in plants. As the Russian 
essayist Vladimir Soloukhin has pointed out in Grass, modem Soviet 
agronomy has lost all feeling for the benefits of plant companionships^ 
Though the specialists mock the idea that cornflowers growing in a field 
of waving rye have a salubrious effect on this cereal crop and consider 
the blue-blossomed plants-known to Americans as bachelor s buttons 
-as only noxious weeds, Soloukhin asks: “If the cornflower were an evil 
weed, would not the farmers of the world have grown to hate it before 

the appearance of the learned agronomists? , 

How many botanists, asks Soloukhin, realize that the first sheaf of rye 
harvest was lovingly decorated with a cornflower wreath and placed in 
front of an icon, or that cornflowers were held by country folk to supply 
bees with abundant nectar for honey even in the driest weather. Sus¬ 
pecting that all this folk wisdom had a solid basis in fact, Soloukhin 
checked in scientific literature and found evidence supporting the accu¬ 
racy of peasant intuition. He read that if a hundred wheat grams are 
mixed with twenty seeds from the ox-eye daisy the sprouting wheat w,l 
be overwhelmed, but that if only one daisy seed is added, the wheat wi,l 
grow better than if no daisies come up in its field. The same is true for 

rye and cornflowers. 


Soloukhin's view on plant symbiosis supports that of an American 
professor of botany and conservation. Dr. Joseph A. Cocannouer who, 
while Sir Albert Howard was working in India, ran the Department of 
Soils and Horticulture at the University of the Philippines for a decade 
and set up an extensive research station in Cavite province. In his book 
Weeds: Guardians of the Soil, published nearly a quarter of a century 
ago, Cocannouer sets forth the thesis that, far from being harmful, 
plants usually considered noxious and troublesome, such as ragweed, 
pigweeds, purslane, and nettles, bring up minerals from the subsoil, 
especially those which have been depleted from the topsoil, and are 
excellent indicators of soil conditions. As companion crops they help 
domesticated plants to get their roots down to food which would other¬ 
wise be beyond their reach. 

Writing of the “law of togetherness of all things,” Cocannouer 
warned that the whole of world agriculture was beginning to ignore it. 


“In America,” he wrote, “in our frenzied efforts to take advantage of 
high prices for agricultural products, we are mining our soils instead of 
farming them.” The same was beginning to be true of Europe, he added, 
where, since World War II, few farmers have been practicing the law 
of return . 

Farmers are becoming more and more mechanical-minded, says 
Cocannouer, one of whose best friends told him: “You and your Nature 
stuff! That’s all very well in theory . . . but starving people are looking 
to America for food. We’ve got to feed ’em. We’ve got to mechanize 
our agriculture and make our land produce to its limit!” 

Today, Americans live in a country where food production is supposed 
to be the world’s most efficient. Yet food prices have continued to rise. 
The cliche holds that back in 1900 one U.S. farmer could feed only five 
people besides himself and that today he can feed thirty. But Michigan 
University food scientist Georg Borgstrom says these mathematics are 
illusory. At the turn of the century farmers, in addition to working their 
land and raising livestock, delivered their own milk, butchered their own 
animals, churned fresh farm butter, salted meat, baked bread, and 
farmed with draft animals for which they produced feed. Now these 
draft requirements are fulfilled by expensive machinery using increas¬ 
ingly costly and depletable fossil fuels, and the husbandman’s arts have 

Soil: The Staff of Life 237 

been taken over by factories. In less than twenty-five years several million 
poultry raisers, whose chickens roamed the land ingesting all sorts of 
natural vegetable and mineral products as well as insects, have disap¬ 
peared, to be replaced by some six thousand semiautomated outlets 
where broilers, packed wing to wing in cages, are fed diets full of artificial 


All these off-farm activities figure in the high cost and dubious quality 
of food. In fact, if one divides the twenty-two million workers building 
farm machinery and farm-to-market roads, delivering and processing 
farm produce and engaged in other food-production tasks, it becomes 
clear that it takes about the same number of people to feed Americans 

today as it did in 1900. 

Cocannouer nevertheless realized that the views of his nature-scoffing 
friend were bound to prevail. He was in despair that no publicity had 
been given Luther Burbank’s firm belief that all agricultural learning 

should begin with a study of nature. 

Now there are signs that the agricultural worm may at last be turning 

and that university scientists are beginning to wake up to the views 
propounded long ago by McCarrison, Howard, and Rodale. As if they 
were discovering something new, Drs. Robert F. Reefer and Rabind^r 
N. Singh, agricultural researchers at West Virginia University in Mor¬ 
gantown, issued a press release on March 4, 1973, to the effect that 
“what man eats is determined partly by the fertilizer that farmers put 
on their crops.” In their experiments the two professors say that they 
have determined that the amounts of trace elements in sweet and fodder 
corn, so important in the diets of animals and humans, are dropping 
dramatically owing to the kinds and amounts of fertilizers grown in some 


Their somewhat belated rediscovery of this basic truth has also rein¬ 
forced a survey conducted in eleven Midwestern states, where it was 
found that the iron, copper, zinc, and manganese content in corn has 
fallen off severely in the past four years The application of huge doses 
of nitrogen fertilizer such as that which has alarmed the citizens of 
Illinois, may, says Singh, “have far-reaching effects on the health of 
animals and men.” He adds that work of another of his West Virginia 


colleagues shows that fertilization of pastures with high rates of nitrogen 

may produce changes in the milk of grazing animals, as revealed by 
feeding it to rats. 

In light of the findings of such pioneers as McCarrison, Howard, 

Albrecht, Voisin, Sykes, and Lady Eve Balfour, the West Virginia 

professors’ research comes very late in the day, and their caution seems 

somewhat ludicrous in the face of mounting rates for degenerative 
diseases in the United States. 

It is a strange fact that U S. medical schools, concerned mainly with 

the study of diseased tissues and bodily systems and organs rather than 

with healthy people, do not even have a single fundamental course on 
nutrition in their curricula. 

Soil The Staff of Life 239 


In the early nineteenth century an American of English descent named 
Nichols cleared hundreds of acres of rich virgin land in South Carolma 
on which he grew crops of cotton, tobacco, and corn so abundant tha 

with the revenue he built a big house and educate a ^ ^ 

once in his lifetime did he add anything to the soil. When rt became 
depleted and his crops dwindled, he cleared more land and 
his exploitation. When there was no more land to be cleared t e ami y 

“"own to manhood, looked at the poverty-stricken acre¬ 
age ttkHora^ Greeley’s advice and moved west to Tennessee, where 

he cleared two thousand acres of virgin land; like his father he planted 
cotton, corn, and tobacco. When his own son was grown to manhood, 
the land was once more so depleted from having living things taken from 
it and none returned that he moved on to Horse Creek in Marengo 
County, Alabama, there to purchase another two thousand acres of 
fertile soil and raise a family of twelve children on the proceeds; the town 
became Nicholsville; Nichols became the owner of a sawmill, a general 
store, and a gristmill. This man's son also grew up to see devastation 
where his father had grown rich. He decided to move further west and 
settled in Parkdale, Arkansas, where he bought one thousand acres of 
good land on the bayou. 

Four moves in four generations. Multiplied by thousands, this is the 
story of how Americans raised food on a continent which was there for 
the taking. The great-grandson of the original Nichols, together with 
thousands of other farmers, inaugurated a new era. After World War I 
he began by farming his new acreage, instead of just mining it, adopting 
the new government-recommended artificial fertilizers. For a time his 
cotton crops prospered, but soon he noticed that his pest population was 
much worse than it had been. When the bottom fell out of the cotton 
market his son Joe decided that medicine, not farming, was to be his 

At the age of thirty-seven Joe Nichols was a full-fledged physician and 
surgeon in Atlanta, Texas, when he suffered a massive heart attack 
which nearly killed him. He was so frightened that for weeks he gave 
up his practice to consider his situation. All he had been taught in 
medical school, plus the opinions of his colleagues, suggested his progno¬ 
sis was extremely doubtful. There was no answer for his affliction beyond 
nitroglycerin pills, which alleviated his chest pains but caused equally 
painful headaches. With nothing better to do than to leaf through the 
ads of a farming magazine, Nichols casually came across the line “People 
who eat natural food grown in fertile soil don’t get heart disease.” 

“Pure quackery! Quackery of the worst sort,” said Nichols of the 
magazine, which was Organic Gardening and Farming, edited by J. I. 
Rodale. "He isn’t even a doctor!” 

Nichols remembered that for lunch on the day of his massive heart 

Chemicals, Plants and Man 241 

attack he had consumed ham, barbecue meat, beans, white bread, and 
pie, which he considered a healthy meal. As a doctor he had advised 
hundreds of patients on diet. But a line in the magazine nagged him: 

What was natural food? What was fertile soil? 

At the local library the librarians were helpful in bringing Nichols 
books on nutrition. He also scoured the medical literature, but could find 

no answer to what constituted natural food. 

“I had an A.B. and an M.D. degree,’” says Nichols, “was fairly intelli¬ 
gent, had read a lot, owned a farm, but I didn’t know what was natural 
food. Like many another American who hadn’t really investigated the 
subject, I thought natural food meant wheat germ and black molasses, 
and that all natural-food addicts were faddists, quacks, and nuts. I 
thought you made land fertile by dumping commercial fertilizer on it. 

Now, more than thirty years later, Joe Nichols’ thousand-acre farm 
near Atlanta, Texas, is one of the showplaces of the state, he has never 
again been afflicted with a heart attack. He ascribes both successes to 
the advice which he took from Sir Albert Howard s book Agricultural 
Testament and Sir Robert McCarrison s Nutritional and Natural Health. 
On his farm, not another ounce of chemical fertilizer went into the land, 

nothing but natural compost. 

Nichols realized that all his life he had been eating “junk food,” food 
produced from poisoned land, food that had led straight to a massive 
heart attack. A third book, Nutrition and the Soil by Sir Lionel J. Picton, 
convinced him that the answer to metabolic disease, whether it was 
heart trouble, cancer, or diabetes, was indeed natural, poison-free food 
grown on fertile soil. 

The food we eat is digested and absorbed from the intestine into the 
bloodstream. Essential nutrients are carried to the individual cells all 
over the body, where repair work is done by metabolism, the process by 
which stable nonliving matter is built up into complex and unstable 
living material, or protoplasm. The cell has an amazing capacity to repair 
itself provided it gets proper ingredients through proper nutrition; other¬ 
wise it becomes stunted or goes out of control. The cell, or basic unit 
of life where metabolism occurs, needs essential amino acids, natural 
vitamins, organic minerals, essential fatty acids, unrefined carbohy- 


drates, and several more as yet unknown, but presumably natural, fac¬ 

Organic minerals, like vitamins, are found in balanced proportions in 
natural food. The vitamins themselves are not nutrients, but substances 
without which the body cannot make use of nutrients. They are parts 
of an extremely complex, intricately interrelated whole. 

In balance means that all the nutrients used by the tissues must be 
available to the cell simultaneously. Furthermore the vitamins essential 
to proper nutrition and good health must be natural. There is a great 
difference between natural and synthetic vitamins, not a chemical but 
a biological difference. There is something missing in the artificial that 
is of biological or life-enhancing value. Not yet widely accepted, this fact 
has been unequivocally established by the work of Dr. Ehrenfried 
Pfeiffer, a biochemist and follower of the great natural scientist and 
clairvoyant Rudolf Steiner. Dr. Nichols thinks the Pfeiffer techniques 
can reveal exactly why natural foods or those containing natural vitamins 
and minerals and enzymes—another chemical compound, of vegetable 
or animal origin, which causes chemical transformation—are superior to 
those grown and preserved with chemicals. 

When Pfeiffer came to the United States at the outbreak of World 
War II, and settled at Three-Fold Farm in Spring Valley, New York, 
he worked out Steiner's “Biodynamic” system for making composts and 
for treating the land, and set up a laboratory to investigate living things 
without breaking them into chemical constituents. 

Before his arrival in the United States Pfeiffer had developed in his 
native Switzerland a “sensitivity crystallization method” to test finer 
dynamic forces and qualities in plants, animals, and humans than had 
thus far been detectable in laboratories. Dr. Steiner, who had given a 
series of esoteric lectures at the Silesian estate of Count Keyserling in 
the 1920s for agronomists concerned about the falling productivity of 
their crops, had asked Pfeiffer to find a reagent which would reveal what 
Steiner called “etheric formative forces” in living matter. After months 
of tests with Glauber's salt, or sodium sulfate, and many other chemicals, 
eiffer discovered that if a solution of copper chloride to which extracts 

iving matter had been added was allowed to evaporate slowly over 

Chemicals, Plants and Man 243 

fourteen to seventeen hours it would produce a crystallization pat ern 
determined not only by the nature but by the quality of t e p an om 
which the extract was taken According to Pfeiffer, the same forma m 
forces inherent in the plant and acting to bring about its form and shape 
would combine with living growth forces to form the pattern of crystal 

Dr Erica Sabarth, current director of the Pfeiffer-establ.shed labora¬ 
tory in Spring Valley, showed the authors rows of beautiful crystalliza¬ 
tions, looking like exotic undersea corals. She pointed out how a strong 
vigorous plant produces a beautiful, harmonious, ^d clearly’formed 
crystal arrangement radiating through to the outer edge, 
crystallization made from a weak or sick plant results in an une 

picture showing thickening or incrustation. 

Pfeiffer’s method, says Sabarth, can be applied to determine 

inherent quality of all sorts of living organisms. When a forester sent 

Pfeiffer two seeds taken from different pine trees, and asked if he cou 

detect any difference in the trees themselves, Pfeiffer submitted e 

seeds to his crystallization tests and found that, whereas one crysta 

picture was an example of harmonious perfection, the other was dis- 

totted and ugly. He wrote to the forester that one of the trees shou 

be a fine specimen, the other must have a serious defect. By refom mail 

the forester sent Pfeiffer enlarged photographs of two grown trees, t 

it was useless 

fninV rtf nne was 

for lumber. . , , , . 

At Spring Valley Pfeiffer developed an even simpler and less time 

consuming method to demonstrate how life veritably pulsates om 
living soils, plants, and foods, but not from inorganic minerals, chemr 
cals, and synthetic vitamins, which are dead. Requiring none of the 
complex equipment of the standard chemical laboratory, it us « circu 
filter-paper discs fifteen centimeters in diameter, provided with a small 
hole in the center for insertion of a wick. The discs are laid in open peto 
dishes in which stand small crucibles containing a 0.05 silver-mtr 
solution. This solution climbs up through the wick and spreads over the 
discs until it has expanded about four centimeters from the center 
From the brilliant-colored concentric patterns Pfeiffer has been ab 


to disclose new secrets of life. Testing natural vitamin C taken from such 
products as rose hips, he established that the pattern of vitality was far 
stronger than from artificial vitamin C, or ascorbic acid. Rudolf 
Hauschka, a follower of Rudolf Steiner, suggests that vitamins are not 
chemical compounds that can be synthetically produced but “primary 
cosmic formative forces." 

Before his death, Pfeiffer pointed out in his own booklet Chromatog¬ 
raphy Applied to Quality Testing that Goethe had stated a truth more 
than 150 years ago which is of the utmost importance with regard to 
the recognition of natural biological quality: The whole is more than the 
sum of its parts. “This means,” wrote Pfeiffer, “that a natural organism 
or entity contains factors which cannot be recognised or demonstrated 
if one takes the original organism apart and determines its component 
parts by way of analysis. One can, for instance, take a seed, analyse it 
for protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, moisture and vitamins, but all 
this will not tell its genetic background or its biological value.” 

In an article, Plant Relationships as Made Visible by Chromatogra¬ 
phy,” published in the winter, 1968, issue of Bio-Dynamics , a periodical 
to further soil conservation and increase fertility in order to improve 
nutrition and health, Sabarth stressed that the chromatographic tech¬ 
nique especially reveals the quality, even the living force of the orga¬ 
nism.” She added that she plans to explore the possibilities of the 
method not only as it applies to seeds and fruits but with regard to the 
roots of plants and all the other plant parts. 

In modern processed foods the vitamins, trace elements, and enzymes 
are arbitrarily removed, mostly so as to render the food more durable. 

As Nichols puts it: “They remove the life, in effect, killing it, so that 
it will not live and die later.” 

The leading culprits in the way of poisonous foods picked by Nichols 
are the bleached flour that goes into white bread, white sugar, refined 
table salt, and hydrogenated fats. One of the most innocent-looking of 
comestibles, the normal soda cracker eaten with soup, contains all of the 

a ve-mentioned noxious elements. “It is junk,” says Nichols, “which 
cads straight to heart disease.” 

From long before the so-called dawn of history bread has been a basic 

Chemicals , Plants and Man 24$ 

nutrient for man. In mythology, the origin of domesticated grains is 
attributed to Attis or Osiris. In the ruins of Swiss lake dwellers remains 
of bread have been found which was baked at least ten thousand years 


A grain or berry of wheat consists basically of a hard nutty kernel 
called the germ at one end, a nub of solid starchy endosperm on which 
the kernel feeds when planted as a seed until its roots can grow, and 
three layers of protective husk collectively called bran. Essential en¬ 
zymes, vitamins and minerals, including iron, cobalt, copper, man¬ 
ganese, and molybdenum are in the germ and husk. Other grains— 
barley, oats, rye, corn—have analogous constructions, and bread can be 
made from all of them. Wheat germ is one of a very few places in nature 
in which the entire vitamin B complex is found, hence bread was called 
“the staff of life. 1 ' Whole wheat also contains traces of barium, a short¬ 
age of which in the human body can lead to cardiac disease, and 

vanadium, also essential to the health of the heart. 

From time immemorial wheat berries have been ground between two 
circular stones. Until the advent of steam power the mills were worked 
by hand, the first steam mill being erected in London in 1784. In stone 
mills, the entire grain was ground into flour. In that process some of the 
husk was reduced to powder, which gives color to whole meal. In 
Deuteronomy 32, verse 14, man is enjoined to eat the fat of the kidney 
of wheat”—meaning the germ. The development of iron rollers, by a 
Frenchman in the early nineteenth century, brought with it a separation 
of wheat germ, bran, and endosperm. Iron rollers were first used in place 
of stones in 1840 by the Hungarian Count Szechenyi in his mill in Pest. 
In 1877 a satisfactory roller mill was imported from Vienna to England. 
Soon they were employed in Canada. Governor Washburn of Min¬ 
nesota a miller, brought the Hungarian process to Minneapolis and 
began to devitalize American flour. By 1880 their use was universal. 

From a commercial point of view the roller mill had three advantages 
over the old grinding stones. By separating the husk and germ from the 
starchy flour, the miller had two products for sale instead of one. The 
husk and germ were sold as “offal,” or animal fodder. Removal of the 
germ made it possible to keep the flour in good condition for a much 


longer time, which increased the miller’s profit. When the roller mill was 
introduced it became possible to adulterate wheat with 6 percent of 
added water. For this the germ had to be removed or the flour would 
not keep. It could then be sold separately. 

In so-called “enriched” white bread, with the vitamins and minerals 
removed, nothing is left but raw starch, which has so little nutritive value 
that most bacteria won’t eat it. into this insipid starch synthetic chemi¬ 
cals are arbitrarily injected, which form only part of the missing vitamin 
B complex, and are not properly ingestible by human beings because 
they are not in balance. For thirty years white flour was bleached with 
nitrogen trichloride, in what is known as the “agene process.” This uses 
a poison which affects the central nervous system. It gives puppies fits, 
and may contribute to mental illness in humans. In 1949 millers volun¬ 
tarily changed to chlorine dioxide for bleaching. This, says Nichols, is 
also a poison. Other chemicals used to “improve” flour include benzoyl 
peroxide, potassium bromate, ammonium persulfate, and even alloxan. 
Chlorine dioxide destroys the remaining vitamin E in flour, and causes 
the starch to swell, which is a boon to the baker. Researchers in England 
found that removal of the natural vitamin E from bread reduces the 

intake of a workman from about a thousand units a day to between two 
and three hundred. 

To compound this trouble, just as white flour was being introduced 
into England so was margarine, the invention of another Frenchman, 
as a cheap substitute for butter, devoid of vitamins A and D. The general 
health of the country deteriorated. Men from northern England and 
southern Scotland, large and powerful during the Napoleonic Wars, 
became short and frail and unfit for military service by the time of the 
oer War. A commission set up to investigate the phenomenon con¬ 
cluded it was caused by men moving to the cities, where they lived not 
on wholesome country bread but on white bread and white sugar. In 
when the U.S. Public Health Service announced a definite connec- 
^on tween overrefined flour and the diseases of beri-beri and pellagra 

i ^ mm * de k cienc y diseases of which over 100,000 cases were reported 
* n ississippi alone—the millers went into action, not to change the 
°ur> but to get the Public Health Service to shut up. Within six months 

Chemicals, Plants and Man 247 

the Public Health Service abjectly issued a “correction” to its bulletin. 
White bread, they said, was perfectly wholesome—if eaten in conjunc¬ 
tion with an otherwise adequate diet of fruit, vegetables, and dairy 
products. As Gene Marine and Judith Allen were to remark in reporting 
the story in their recent book Food Pollution: So is cardboard. 

The next villains in this melodrama of life are white sugar and glucose, 
the heavy syrup fruits are packed in and the sweetener for most soft 
drinks. In the seventeenth century, European manufacturers developed 
a process by which after eight weeks of hard labor sugar could be refined 
to something approximating whiteness. This whiteness, at first so expen¬ 
sive, caused white sugar to be considered by the poor more worthy of 
being consumed. White sugar, says Nichols, is one of the most danger¬ 
ous food items on the market. All the good part, the molasses, the 
vitamins, and minerals, are removed. There is nothing left but carbohy¬ 
drates and calories—of which we have too many already. The refining 
is now done for purely commercial reasons; the sugar keeps better. 
White sugar can be stored in hundred-pound cloth sacks for years in 

dirty warehouses and still be sold for a profit. 

Most table syrup, says Nichols, is nothing but cornstarch treated with 
sulfuric acid, then artificially colored and flavored. Unlike natural fruit 
sugars, honey, molasses, or maple syrup, it goes straight into the blood¬ 
stream, causing instant hyperglycemia—or too much sugar in the blood. 
This drowns the human cells in sugar. The pancreas, heeding the alarm, 
puts out too much insulin and produces a state of hypoglycemia, or too 
little sugar in the blood. This seesawing, says Nichols, is the cause of the 
vicious but ubiquitous coffee break: when a man begins his day with 
refined sugar in his coffee and glucose on his cereal or pancakes, he 
shoots his blood full of sugar, which triggers a pancreas reaction. By ten 
o’clock he has hypoglycemia; so he has sweetened coffee or a soft drink 
or a candy bar. This fills his blood with instant sugar. Again the pancreas 
reacts. By noon he is down again; and so on throughout the day. A side 
effect of hypoglycemia is that it causes a lowering of resistance, makes 
a person nervous and not mentally alert, an easier prey to viral and 
bacterial diseases. 

One of the less-suspected poisons on the dining-room table is coin 


mon refined salt or sodium chloride. Not in small doses, but over a long 
period, it can cause high blood pressure and heart disease. Sea salt 
contains trace minerals in balance, but by the time the salt hits the 
supermarket it has been refined to pure sodium chloride with all trace 
minerals removed. Furthermore it is treated under high heat with 
sodium silicate, a drying agent, which makes it free flowing in wet 
weather. This, says Nichols, disturbs the delicate balance of sodium and 
potassium in the cells of the heart. The delicacy of chemical combina¬ 
tions is such that if the two basic elements of table salt were to be taken 
separately in the same amounts, they would kill immediately. 

The next and even more vicious cause of heart disease, says Nichols, 

is hydrogenated fats. These include most of the fats and oils commonly 

found in shortening, in store-bought peanut butter, and in practically all 

commercial bakery products, crackers, cookies, and breads. Much ice 

cream is made from mellorine, a cheap hydrogenated oil. Hydrogenation 

consists in using a heated nickel catalyst to force hydrogen into the gaps 

between the carbon atoms of linoleic acid. This prevents the resulting 

fatty oil from going rancid; but it also destroys essential fatty acids. 

These, says Nichols, not being absorbable by the body cells, have to go 

somewhere in the body, and end up lining the blood vessels, causing 
heart disease. 

DDT and other pesticides also go straight to the seed oil 0 f com or 
cotton. There is no way to remove them, and they are cancer causing. 
Though DDT has largely been banned, its successors Diaidrin, Aldrin, 
and Heptaclore, are equally insidious. “Personally,” says Nichols, “I 
wouldn t have corn oil in my kitchen.” He recommends any of the 
cold-pressed oils, such as olive oil, or safflower oil, which yield a wonder¬ 
fully clear, almost transparent, oily fluid. 

Nichols points out that whereas natural rice is one of the best foods 
in the world, and is one of the richest sources of natural vitamin B 
complex, white processed rice is nothing but raw starch, an item already 
superfluous in the high-carbohydrate American diet. American mission¬ 
ary wives in the Philippines managed to kill off hundreds of prisoners 
m the local jails by philanthropically substituting polished rice for natu¬ 
ral rice in the prison diets, causing beri-beri. 

Chemicals, Plants and Man 249 

The peanut butter which Carver went to such pams to produce is now 
mostly being made from rancid peanuts, says Nichols, since the food 
chemists have learned to clean it up, deodorize it and decolor it so that 
it can be sold to unsuspecting mothers. By one means or another and 
with hundreds of toxic additives to choose from, chemists can fix food 
so that it is very difficult for the citizen to tell that the food is going or 

has already gone bad. 

One of the most important items in human diet is protein, which 
provides eight essential amino acids, the building blocks of the body. 
There are twenty-two amino acids. Eight are called essential for the 
adult, ten are necessary for growing children. If those are included, t e 

body can build the others. . , 

Meat is the most popular source of protein m the United States, u 

the prime steak of today has come from beef that has been force-fed or 

180 days with low-quality-protein hybrid grains sprayed with poison 

insecticides. These go straight into the fat of the meat, especially into 

the marbling, and, says Nichols, lead straight to heart disease. To pur 

an extra 20 percent weight on cattle-and produce a multimilhon-dolkr 

profit—the cattle raisers feed their animals diethylstilbestroi (DEb„ 

which can be carcinogenic in both men and women. 

Though the FDA finally banned DES in the spring of 1973, it has 
now been replaced by a compound called Synovex, which contains 
estradol benzoate, considered by many experts to be cancer-causing. 
Says Dr. Mortimer Lipsett, “Whatever dangers you want to attribute 
to DES, you can attribute to Synovex.” Beef, steers, bogs, sheep, an 
poultry are also still getting sixteen other drugs, singly or in combination, 
which the FDA suspects are carcinogenic when ingested by humans. To 
detect excess amounts of the toxin in meat, even if the entire army were 
to join the federal meat inspectors of the FDA, it is unlikely they could 
stop the chemicals getting to your table. And a huge proportion of our 
meat is never inspected. Of the ten billion frankfurters eaten m one 
recent year in the United States, about three and a half billion were 
consumed within the states where they were manufactured; hence they 

were not inspected. s 

The organ meat of animals, says Nichols, is only edible if the anim , 


has been fed organically. The livers of prime animals are confiscated 
much of the time because they contain abscesses and toxic substances. 
Commercially grown chickens have arsenic and stilbestrol in their bodies 
and much of it winds up in the liver. The liver is the detoxifying organ 
of the body, and that's where these poisons go. Store-bought eggs are 
mostly infertile, do not taste as good as fertile eggs, and are nowhere near 
as good for you, says Nichols, because there is a subtle biological differ¬ 
ence. Hens that lay commercial eggs are cooped up where they cannot 
move, have seldom if ever seen a rooster, let alone been caught by one. 
“How,” asks Nichols, “can an unhappy hen lay a good egg?” 

In the pyramid of life, plants play an essential role, as man cannot 
ingest essential elements directly from the soil. They must be brought 
to him through the good graces of living plants, which likewise feed all 
animals, directly or indirectly. Via plant and animal our bodies grow out 
of the soil. Microorganisms break up the chemicals in the soil and make 
them acceptable to plants. Plants can synthesize carbohydrates from the 
air, rainfall, and sunshine. But, before the life processes can convert 
these carbohydrates into amino acids and proteins, they must have help 
from the soil fertility. Neither man nor animal can synthesize the neces¬ 
sary proteins from the elements. Animals can only assemble them from 
the amino acids, providing the necessary kinds and amounts of each can 
be collected or produced by plants with the help of microbes. 

Protein-producing plants demand a long list of elements from the soil: 
nitrogen, sulfur, and phosphorus are required to make part of the protein 
molecule; calcium and lime are also required; and magnesium, man¬ 
ganese, boron, copper, zinc, molybdenum, and other elements are 
needed in connection with protein construction, even if only in such 
small amounts as are called “trace.” 

If the soil is not properly fertile, not teeming with microorganisms, 
the whole process goes out of kilter or grinds to a halt. To keep the 
microorganisms alive, great quantities of decaying organic matter need 
to be added to the earth. On the forest floor dead plant matter and dead 
animal matter go back into the land. Leaf mold, through decay, contin¬ 
ues to give life to the land, returning to the soil what the tree took as 


Chemicals, Plants and Alan 251 

I , 

■ I 






„ , ta « *, 

composted, with the nght a <* e ™’ prod ’ uces strong, healthy plants 

chemical fertilizers an P ^, h plants make strong, healthy animals 
which naturally repel pests. Hea y P food-poor m 

and strong, healthy human p JZ poor, sick peo 

vitamins, minerals, enzymes, a an d go live in the 

pie. Worn out land causes people to leave tn 

slumS ' f et hut Diants grown on well-balanced, fertile soils do 

It's a strange fact, but plants g _ own Q n poor soils, 

not have the same attraction or Fert il e ^ y, av e a natural 

artificially stimulated y c . t as a pro perly nourished body has 

immunity to insects and dis J tcnd t0 gravitate toward a 

SSSyjSSb- already been weakened by disease or 

first to the land, then to chemical farming is practiced the 

a- the companies that produce 

* Slants with 

nies began to ^^^"i.Tsupport of university professors. Three 
hundred million pounds of different etiemic ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ 

under twenty-two *ousa" d ^ ^ ,, fe . of mass 

destruction ofw*M* Michlg a n University 

spraying, Dr. Geo g J- the test threat that animal life 

on the record to say that P defore station, worse than 

in North America has ever face pollution, possibly 

worse than all these decimating factors fa ^ ^ aie 

Not only wild life but fish in fresh ot insectl cides and herbi 

gradually being poisoned by a com m ds prim! 

ides. Yet the DDT which wiped ^ ^"ion of ehemid 
target, the boll weevil, flourishing. Despite the app 



pesticides the insects are gaining the upper hand, doing $4 billion worth 
of damage to crops each year. And no amount of argument appears to 
put over the fact that healthy crops are naturally pest resistant, keeping 
the insects at bay. 

In the book Silent Spring , which Justice William O. Douglas called 
“the most important chronicle of the century for the human race,” 
Rachel Carson made clear that the environment, which supports human 
life, is being stressed to the point of collapse. As Friend Sykes foresaw, 
doctors attribute to DDT and its more poisonous descendants the rise 
in leukemia, hepatitis, Hodgkin’s disease, and other degenerative dis¬ 
eases. A correlation between the rise in the birthrate of mentally re¬ 
tarded children and the increase in the use of fertilizers and poisonous 
chemicals is stunning. Twenty thousand mentally retarded children 
were born in 1952, There were 60,000 by 1958; six years later the figure 
had risen to 126,000, and by 1968 it was well over half a million. 
Nowadays one child in eight is born mentally retarded in the United 
States, according to Dr. Roger J. Williams, discoverer of pantothenic 
acid and director of the Clayton Foundation Biochemical Institute in 
Texas, the first biochemist to be elected president of the American 
Chemical Society. 

When Nichols realized what was happening to the country as a result 
of both chemical fertilization and chemical pesticides he took two steps. 
He went organic on his farm, and he sought other doctors and scientists 
who had made the same discoveries. Together they organized Natural 
Food Associates, of which Nichols became the first president. Their 
object was to start correcting the situation with a nationwide campaign 
to get the facts before the people, on the grounds that only an aroused 
public opinion could save America from poor food grown on poor soil. 
Nichols says he was determined to tell everyone just how to get natural 
food: “No matter how old you are, which sex you are, what color you 
are, where you live—north, south, east, or west, on an isolated farm or 
in a big city apartment.” 

By any means they could, Nichols and the NFA blasted the shib¬ 
boleth that America is the best-nourished, healthiest nation on the face 
of the globe. “Nothing,” said Nichols, “could be farther from the truth. 

Chemicals, Plants and Man 2 S3 

The truth is that America is the most fed and the worst nourished natron 
on earth. America today is suffering from a biological blight. We are 
facing metabolic disaster. We are a nation of sick people. Heart disease 
is rampaging through America; it is our Public Enemy number one. 
is the leading cause of death among Americans. Fifty years ago coronary 
thrombosis was rarely seen by a physician. Today it strikes even le 
young. . .. Cancer, diabetes, arthritis, dental caries, and other metabolic 
diseases are rapidly increasing. Even children are falling victim to 

* Listing the facts, Nichols reported that sixteen hundred autopsies 
showed that in every one of the patients past the age of three years there 
was already disease in the aorta, the main artery of the body that carries 
blood from the left ventricle of the heart to all the organs ana parts 
except the lungs. In every patient past the age of twenty, disease was 

already in the coronary artery. , 

“This should be evidence enough that practically everybody in the 

United States today has cardiovascular disease. We have an epidemic. 

And we have an epidemic of cancer. Cancer is now the leading cause 

of death, after accidents, in children under fifteen years of age. Babies 

are born with cancer! The American Cancer Society says cancer will 

eventually strike one in every four Americans now living. Can a nation 

call itself healthy when one of four must expect to get cancer, when 

three of four who get cancer will die of it?’’ 

Almost immediately the agricultural chemical industry and the food 
processors attempted to discredit the NFA, calling them food faddists, 
quacks, and charlatans. They were accused of being unscientific. I he 
initial detractors were soon joined by the U.S. Department of Agncu - 
ture and the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, 
operating through the Food and Drug Administration, and even the 
American Medical Association. University professors, in search of fa 
grants, supported the claims of the FDA, A campaign was launched to 
make Americans believe that what the Natural Food Associates were 
saying was pure myth. Newspaper and magazine articles, even.entire 
books, were published in a huge effort to destroy the effect of NFA ana 
its credibility with the public. 


The U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare put out a 
bulletin, “Food Facts vs. Food Fallacies,” in which it called everything 
Nichols said a myth. To discredit Natural Food Associates and theii 
objectives the AMA and the FDA organized a “Congress on Quackery,” 
which toured the United States, holding seminars on food faddism and 
quackery. As Nichols put it, “They were really after men and women 
whose espousal of ‘natural foods* or organic foods* or ‘health foods* 
threatened to lower the profits of the food industry.” 

The stars of the show were Dr. Fred Spare and Dr. Jean Mayer, 
chairman of the Department of Nutrition at Harvard University’s Medi¬ 
cal School, who insisted that to get a proper balanced diet all an Ameri¬ 
can had to do was go into the nearest grocery store and get a variety of 
the four food groups: fruit and vegetables; milk and dairy products; 
cereals; meat and eggs. The U.S. Public Health Department launched 
an all-out propaganda campaign, supported by the food processors and 
chemical trusts that make the poisonous food additives. Science editors, 

food editors, and medical editors in the daily newspapers joined their 

When the NFA tried to tell the country that DDT was a cancer- 

producing chemical they were labeled quacks and faddists; their charges 

called a myth. In the end—after more than a decade of poisoning—the 

FDA itself was finally obliged to label DDT a dangerous poison, though 

pressure from agricultural interests caused the FDA to revoke its ban on 

DDT in milk, and establish a legal tolerance for the amount of DDT 
allowable in milk. 

Although Australian investigators charged that BHT, or butyl- 
hydroxy-toluene, an anti-oxidant (originally used to preserve color mo¬ 
tion-picture film), which turned up in processed foods, was teratogenic, 
that is, it interfered with the development of an embryo, the FDA 
allowed BHT as a freshness preserver. When newsmen questioned FDA 
about its research they were told the papers were secret. In the end it 
turned out there were only two reports on BHT in the FDA files—both 
written by members of the staff of the makers of BHT. 

|n I960 the panel on-food additives in President Eisenhower’s 
cience Advisory Committee, which included members of the National 

Chemicals, Plants and Man 255 

Academy of Sciences, university professors, and representatives of the 
Rockefeller Foundation and of cancer research institutes, stated that 

“Americans today are better fed and in better health than at any time 
in history_The integrated contributions of the engineering, agricul¬ 

tural and chemical sciences have resulted in increasing quantities of 
uniformly high-quality and pure foods which have contributed demon¬ 
strably to the physical well being of the nation. 

Thirteen years later FDA Commissioner Charles C. Edwards was still 

insisting that it was “established” that the vitamin content of food is 
not affected by the soil foods are grown in. “Vitamin or mineral deficien¬ 
cies,” he stated, “are unrelated to the great majority of symptoms like 
tiredness, nervousness, and rundown conditions.’ He then proclaimed 
that: “Scientifically it is inaccurate to state that the quality of soil in the 
United States causes abnormally low concentration of vitamins or min¬ 
erals in the food supply produced in this country. . . There is no 

relationship between the vitamin content of foods arid the chemical 

composition of the soil.” 

But there is still hope if we get back on the track, says Nichols, if we 
begin to cleanse the poisons from every link of the food chain, so as to 
restore the country to proper nutrition and avoid the long decline that 
blighted North Africa and the Near East. To do so, and save the nation 
from metabolic disaster, says Nichols, we must change from an economy 
of exploitation to one of conservation. In the long run the country must 
give up chemical fertilizers and gradually revive the soil organically. 
Organic fertilizer can now be bought in a sack or packaged just like 
ordinary commercial fertilizer, and at no greater cost. Deposits of raw 
rock phosphate and potash with marine trace minerals and other depos¬ 
its are readily available. 

A great advantage of organic rock fertilizers is that after a few years 
of application they are no longer needed. Whereas the chemical farmer 
is obliged to put on more and more fertilizer each year, the organic 
farmer can put on less and less. Eventually the organic farmer will make 

more money, as it will cost him less to operate. 

Organic farmers say it is not true that a man with extensive acreage 
cannot find enough organic matter. He has been told, says Nichols, that 


he must steal from one acre to get natural fertilizer for another acre; but 
in fact he can grow his own organic matter on every acre, by following 
a few simple rules. And the organic method can be applied to any kind 
of agriculture. All animal manures, garbage, perhaps even sewage sludge, 
can be composted and returned to the land. If we could halve the waste 
of these materials, says Nichols, we could double the fertility of our soils 
and thus double the food supply. 

The restoration of soil fertility, according to organic farmers, would 
go a long way toward solving problems of floods and water shortages 
which cannot be solved until organic matter is restored to the soil. The 
usual 100 pounds of soil in East Texas won't hold 30 pounds of water. 
But 100 pounds of humus will hold 195 pounds of water like a sponge. 
Fertile soil is usually dark in color and soft to the touch. When it rains 
the water soaks into this soil. 

The construction of dams on rivers will never completely solve the 
water problem, say the organic farmers. The underground water level 
will continue to fall until organic matter is restored to the topsoil. As 
Nichols puts it: “We must learn to trap the raindrop right where it falls, 
instead of washing our topsoil into the rivers.” A third of the arable 
topsoil in the U.S. has already been washed into the sea over the years, 
and is still being lost faster than it can be replaced. During floods, 
millions of tons of rich topsoil are washed downstream. Soil erosion costs 
half a million acres of land a year. We live from about eight inches of 
topsoil, containing earthworms, bacteria, fungi, and other microscopic 
forms of life, that provides us with vegetation, trees, insects, and ani¬ 
mals. The only inexhaustible wealth is a fertile soil. Topsoil is the 
greatest natural resource of any nation; civilizations of the past have 
been destroyed when their fertile soils were lost. 

In the coming age of famine, says Nichols, proper nutrition from a 
fertile soil will be the first source of wealth. And we must stop con¬ 
taminating the rest of the planet. He warns that the massive use of 
commercial fertilizer in the so-called underdeveloped nations of the 
World will bring them the same massive increase in metabolic disease 
mat we already have in America. Yet the chemical companies keep 
Pouring out propaganda and pressure for greater consumption of their 

Chemicals , Plants and Man 257 

product. Dr. Raymond Ewell 7 vice president for research at the State 
University of New York at Buffalo, who has been considered one of the 
world's leading chemical economists, says blithely that if "Asia, Africa 
and Latin America are not using quantities of fertilizer approaching 30 
million tons by 1980, they are almost certain to be engulfed in wide¬ 
spread famine.” 

Nichols, on the other hand, says that if we continue to exploit and 
teach exploitation of the soil here and abroad, the result will inevitably 
be war, just as it was when Japan went into Manchuria looking for 
protein from the soybean. Peace in this world, says Nichols, depends on 
conservation of natural resources, not their exploitation. 



Live Plants or Dead Planets 

Among the independent farmers of the nation still working the land, a 
band of hardy individuals have finally realized that the blandishments 
of the artificial fertilizer and pesticide salesmen are questionable and are 

setting about to avoid the harmful results of chemical farming before 
it is too late. 

Hereford is not only the name of a popular breed of beef cattle 
developed in one of the English counties bordering on Wales, it is also 
a Snia ll town on the upper reaches of the Palo Duro River, which runs 
through the Texas Panhandle, a 170-mile-square area of the Lone Star 
State which, about a century ago, was a wild short-grass prairie roamed 

by thousands of American bison. For millennia the Hat plains of Deaf 
Smith County, of which Hereford is the seat, produced a rich herbage 
and a variety of succulent weeds whose roots extended through two to 
four feet of clay-loam topsoil into the calicahi, a subsoil rich m calcium 
and magnesium, drawing up these elements and depositing them as they 
died on the surface to maintain a vital protein-rich graze for the wild 
bovines. The minerals in the soil were delicately balanced and the humus 
naturally provided by the dying vegetation along with the bovine drop¬ 
pings was sufficient to hold its own against the harsh climate, hot and 
dry in summer, bitterly cold in the snow-sparse winters. It was only half 
a century ago that farming began in the region; the first furrows were 
cut into the land by the metal moldboards of plows; golden grain was 
sown as far as the eye could reach. Where the land was not planted, 

herds of cattle replaced the buffalo. 

As the years went by, the farmers realized that deep plowing was 

hurting rather than helping the soil. So they switched to breaking up the 

rich clay-loam to a depth of merely six to eight inches with chiseling 

tools pulled by low-horsepower tractors. At the same time they were 

delighted to discover that water from underground aquifers could be 

pumped up and applied to the soil to supplement the rainfall from 

thunderstorms which intermittently turned the prairie into a dark 

panoply of lightning-threaded cumulus and the creeks into rivers a mi e 

wide and an inch deep.'* 

By the time the children of the first generation of farmers had grown 
into manhood, things had begun to go wrong in Deaf Smith Coun y 
Dissatisfied by smaller harvests obtained from depleted soil, farmer 
began adding artificial fertilizers to their land as recommended b 
agricultural research stations and academic advisers. In less than 
decade disaster was in sight. The chemicals were burning up the organic 

material in the soil, upsetting the delicate natural balance of minera^ 

As a result, the soil began to dissipate. When mixed with irrigation watt 
it coagulated into enormous clods weighing up to fifty pounds each. 1 
break them up the farmers had to resort to huge 135-horsepower tract 
capable of dragging enormous chiseling tools through the bnck i e c 
sistency of their land. Some of the farmers, appalled at the prospect 


an end to irrigation farming in the Panhandle, owing to the unmindful 
application of the wrong kind of nutrients to the once rich land, were 
determined to react. 

One of these, Frank Ford, after graduating from Texas Agricultural 
and Mechanical University, purchased an eighteen-hundred-acre farm 
in Hereford on which the land was badly eroded because of the prevail¬ 
ing agricultural practices. 'There were gullies so deep you could hide a 
tractor in them,” Ford recalls, but today they have all been filled and 
the land terraced and leveled smooth. 

Ford committed himself to organic farming, using natural manures 
on his acreage and putting a complete stop to the use of pesticides, 
substituting in their stead ladybugs to kill brown mites and other pests. 
He also banished herbicides. Refusing to be persuaded, like other farm¬ 
ers, that his seeds should be chemically treated against wireworms and 
rust, he resolved that he would not plant any seeds he could not eat. 

In addition to farming, Ford put capital into Arrowhead Mills, which 
specializes in the production of high-quality stone-ground flour with no 
preservatives, as well as other whole, natural foods. To assure himself a 
steady supply of organic products Ford had to persuade his fellow farm¬ 
ers to adopt organic methods. Attracted by his fair prices, a group of 
them have now organized the Deaf Smith County Organic Farmers 
Association, with the aim of not only growing healthier food but of 
protecting and improving the soil of West Texas. 

Working with this group is Fletcher Sims, Jr., who came to the Texas 
Panhandle in 1949. One thing that caught Sims’ attention was the fact 
that the first feedlots for cattle opened in the Panhandle, about 1965, 
were beginning to pile up tons of cattle manure which no one knew how 
to dispose of. Within a few years the waste from one lot two miles from 
his home in Canyon, Texas, downriver from Hereford, had collected 
into a pile over fifty feet high, covering forty acres, or more than thirty 
football fields, requiring a fleet of bulldozers and other equipment worth 
a quarter of a million dollars to pack. Sims further estimates that feedlots 
throughout the nation contain millions of cubic yards of manure which 
will eventually become,worthless as fungi reduce them to minerals. 

At the same time it seemed to Sims that the agricultural schools were 

Live Plants or Dead Planets 261 

going out of their way to misuse the cattle wastes on the land- At Texas 
A and M nearly one thousand tons of manure per acre was emg p 
three feet under the soil, which Sims knew can do only vioknce to both 
soil and manure, since in the process topsoil is buried, -bscd-pose , 
and the manure prevented from becoming aerob.cally fermented. An¬ 
other Texas college was pumping an organic slurry onto e s a cone n 
trations that killed the crops; and an expenmental Nation not fa 
Canyon was dumping raw manure at the rate o t ree un r 
acre onto sod on the premise that it is only a waste product to be 
disposed of. Other scientists were suggesting that building matena s e 
tide from manure, one group in the state of Washington even working 

on how to make livestock feed with it. 

In the face of what Sims considered these sad and asinine approaches, 

he realized that the manure could best be turned into -luable comp 

Dr. Joe Nichols introduced Sims to the compos work that had been 

done for years in Pfeiffer’s research laboratory at Spring Valley, N 

Y °During several visits to Spring Valley Sims learned that compost 
making goes through distinct phases; one in which original starches 
sugars afid other components are broken down by bactena, fungi,™ 

other organisms; a second in which the new matenais are consumed by 
microorganisms to build up their own bodies. It wa 
importance, Sims was told, that the right kind of m.crofauna and m - 
cXa be present and that the second phase be timed correctly so that 

there would not be too much loss of organic matter 

“If compost is not worked properly," Sabarth told Sims the or g, 

proteins and amino acids break down into simple chemical “mpound^ 
In other words, organic matter gets lost as carbon d,ox.deor asrn rog 
escaping as ammonia and nitrates. Many gardeners think of their com 
posts as being 100 percent organic because all their ongmalmatena, 
organic. But nature isn't that simple. Living cells have 70 to 90 perc 
water, only 15 to 20 percent proteins, amino acids, carbo y ra es a 
other carbon compounds. Only 2 to 10 percent ,s mineral; pot ■ 
cakium, magnesium, and the trace elements that arc inorganic. T 
organic compounds can be preserved in the bodies of the microorgan 


isms. They escape when they become free in some stage of the break¬ 
down. The N, P, and K concept comes into its own only when compost 
has been mineralized, but by then the biological values have been lost. 
In compost making you need to have a quick method for telling whether 
bacterial action is breaking down nitrogen-containing compounds too 
fast, which is indicated by the ammonia smell. If compost piles heat too 
fast they must be turned to interrupt the ammonia production so that 
bacteria rebuild more stable nitrogen compounds in bacterial protein.” 

The standard tests of the American Organization of Agricultural 
Chemists, Sabarth informed Sims, cannot reveal the state of matter in 
which organic materials are present since they rely on combustion or 
oxidation of compounds. The ashes give only the total amount present, 
but say nothing as to whether they originate from minerals or from living 
cells and tissues. Pfeiffer’s colored chromatograms so well define the 
various stages of fermentation, whether decomposition, humus forma¬ 
tion, or mineralization, that after years of work the laboratory was able 
to develop a Biodynamic compost starter with a proper population of 
microorganisms for anyone’s use. 

Sabarth showed Sims chromatogram pictures, one of which illustrated 
how the material from a cranberry bog, though it contained an incred¬ 
ible 18 percent organic matter, was actually inert. Standard chemical 
analysis would not have revealed its biological valuelessness. A picture 
of adobe soil from California revealed that analysis of the minerals 
within it meant little because it had no well-developed microflora, and 
thus was infertile. When soils have only minerals but no organic matter, 
said Sabarth, the plants in them are like people forced to eat salty foods. 
They are driven to drink water and more water. Plants absorbing an 
excess of mineral salts take in an excess of moisture. Though they look 
lush to the eye, they are no longer in balance, and therefore no longer 

resistant to disease. 

To his amazement Sims learned that with Pfeiffer’s chromatograms 
Sabarth had been able to establish scientific proof that certain plants, 
beans and cucumbers, for instance, grow better if planted in conjunction 
Mth each other, and that other plants, such as beans and fennel, seem 
*° badly together. Furthermore, the storage together of such crops 

Live Plants or Dead Planets 263 

as apples and potatoes mysteriously robs each of its most life-giving 

Pfeiffer came to realize that it is only our human egotistical point of 
view that labels a weed a weed, and that if they were viewed as a 
functioning part of nature, weeds would have much to teach. Pfeiffer 
proved that a whole group of weeds, including sorrels, docks, and 
horsetails, are sure indicators that the soil is becoming too acidic. Dande¬ 
lions, which lawn owners so feverishly dig up,' actually heal the soil by 
transporting minerals, especially calcium, upward from deep layers, even 
from underneath hardpan. The dandelion is thus warning the lawn 
owner that something is wrong with the life of his soil. 

Pfeiffer showed that daisies play the same role, in that analyses of their 
incinerated ashes show them to be rich in calcium, the most important 
constituent of lime. Pfeiffer doubted whether the orthodox view, hold¬ 
ing that the daisies have selectively “fixed” lime, was correct, since they 
could grow in limeless soil providing there is enough silicon present 
together with microorganisms. Pfeiffer came to the conclusion that, 
when soil lacks lime, silicon-loving plants such as daisies move onto it. 
When they die, they bring to the soil the missing calcium he had found 
in his analyses. But he could not answer the question “How does the 
calcium get into the daisies?” 

Pfeiffer performed experiments on plant symbiosis to show that in 
some way camomile stimulates heavier growth of wheat, with fuller ears, 
but only when the ratio of camomile to wheat plants is no more than 
one to one hundred. Thus his latter-day research confirms the age-old 
wisdom of the Russian peasantry about cornflowers and rye. 

Sims came to the realization that the prospects of Pfeiffer’s unique 
tests seemed endless. He was fascinated that two chromatograms of 
wheat, one grown with inert chemicals, the other biologically, looked so 

Sims took back with him to Texas a supply of the Biodynamic startei 
composed of some fifty different microorganisms, many coming frofli 
the outstanding soils of the world and each with its particular mission 
to fulfill, both in the compost as it is being made and in the soil onto 
which it is distributed. What makes the starter so inscrutable to tb< 


average scientist is the faict that there are homeopathic quantities of vital 

elements, enzymes, and other growth substances which work at dilutions 
of up to 1,000,000,000 to 1. 

Applying the Biodynamic process to what may have been the first 
commercial compost operation using the Pfeiffer starter, Sims took raw 
manure which he could get free from the feedlots and treated it in such 
a way that microorganisms disassembled compounds in the waste and 
assembled them into new and beneficial ones. At the same time disease 
organisms and seeds from weeds or grains are automatically destroyed 
and harmful chemicals are biologically degraded when the temperature 
in the piles reaches 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Laying out piles of compost 
m windrows, Sims turned them from time to time, using a machine of 
his own design with a caipacity of six hundred tons per hour. 

Within one month, his compost, having never been subjected either 
to grinding or screening, became a fine, dark brown, friable, earthy 
matenal, wholly devoid of manure odor. The cow dung was transformed 
miraculously as it were, by biological action. As the farmers began to’ 
buy Sims s products and apply it to their land, startling results were not 
long m coming. John Wieck of nearby Umbaiger, after only two years’ 
treatment of his soil with half a ton of Biodynamic compost per acre and 
no other fertilizer or insecticides, and only two irrigations to supplement 
some three inches of rain, was able to harvest a fantastic 172 Vi bushels 

per acre of com, or more than double the maximum crop achieved on 
the artificially nitrogenized lands of Illinois. 

In the northern part of the Panhandle ten miles from Oklahoma's 
ero ee trip, another Texan, Don Hart, whose irrigated land had 
Wpmi to tighten up from the use of commercial fertilizers, realized that 
e and his neighbor might soon be sitting on wasteland. Hearing of 
•mss success, he not only began to compost his acres but soon started 
composting business of his own to supply other farmers. Within a short 
me he found that his soil felt like a plush, moisture-laden carpet 
aerfoot. A reporter visiting his acreage in late 1971 wrote that anyone 
o wanted to convince hi mself of the advantage of Biodynamic com- 

one T y t0 r d , r ' Ve al ° ng 3 IOad where from the “ r could see on 
side a beautiful crop of healthy com plants coming up on Hart’s field 

Live Plants or Dead Planets 265 

and on the other, planted two weeks before Hart’s, a virtual nightmare: 
a few sickly plants starting out of hard-packed and cracked groun . 

Southeastward across the enormous state of Texas, Warren Vincent 
has been encouraging farmers to grow rice organically in order to combat 
the rice growers’ main nemesis, barnyard or water grass, on w ich 
herbicides of the kind used so devastatingly to defoliate the jungles of 
Vietnam have been extensively applied. Vincent encourages his neigh¬ 
bors to rotate rice with Bahaia grass, which turns the land back to sod, 
controls weeds, and makes an excellent pasturage for animals. Now that 
consumers are beginning to discover that organically grown brown nee 
is nutritionally far better than that grown with artificial fertilizer, other 

pioneering rice farmers have dared to go organic. 

In northern California, 120 miles south of the towering Mount 

Shasta, which looks like Japan’s Fuji, four Lundberg brothers, owners of 
Wewah Farm, have begun to grow brown rice organically. Though 
converting to organic methods involved additional costs, they remem¬ 
bered that their father had taught them that any farmer worth his salt 
has an obligation to improve the land he uses and, if possible leave it 
to the next generation in a better condition than when he took it over, 
a philosophy which, applied worldwide, could make of this planet a 

Garden of Eden. , j £ .< 

Despite generalized warnings against giving up the extended fam y 

of chemical products, the Lundberg brothers located a source of manure 
and composted it before working it into an initial seventy-six acres. Their 
first crop averaged thirty-seven hundred pounds per acre, low when 
compared to chemically treated rice, but high enough to be economi¬ 
cally feasible, given the premium prices paid for organic rice. T ei 

initial experiment convinced them to go all the way an c ° nve j 
whole of Wewah’s three thousand acres to organics. The Lundb g 
next imported special milling equipment from Japan and established 
their own organic processing plant. This would not remove the rice 
protective outer shell, the nutritious portion of the grain and to some 

Th^Ire now indications from not only the public but also notables 
in California’s government and even in its universities that the Lun 


bergs may be on the right trail. Floyd Allen, a reporter for Organic 
(gardening and Farming, visiting the state legislature in Sacramento, 
heard one assemblyman declare that the organic way was “a good 
mother philosophy.” Allen was surprised to sit in the office of an emi¬ 
nent pesticide specialist at the University of California at Riverside and 
hear the man announce: “I wish someone would do something about the 
quality and taste of food. I’d like to eat a tomato that tastes like tomatoes 
used to taste.” 

The organic approach has also been adopted in the Middle West by 
dairy farmers who wish to sell their milk to such producers as Eldore 
Hanoi, president of the Wisconsin River Valley Cheese company north 
of Wausau, who has been making organic cheese since 1962. When the 
Grade A raw milk arrives at the company it is pumped directly into the 
cheesemaking vat, completely by-passing pasteurization. No preservative 
or color is added and no imitation ingredients are used. To preserve the 
natural enzymes of raw milk, heating temperatures during manufacture 
of the cheese are not allowed to exceed 102 degrees Fahrenheit. Hanni's 
partner, Eldred Thiel, claims his cheese has the old-time flavor—“like 
my Dad used to make.” The cheesemakers’ suppliers are certified by the 
firm as “natural farmers,” who take up to five years to make sure that 
no trace of chemicals remain on their land. 

Among fruit growers who have seen the light is Ernest Halbleib, 
owner of Halbleib’s Orchard and Organic Farm at McNabb, Illinois, 
who refutes the almost universal assertion that apple growers cannot get 
along without chemicals. Halbleib states that insects arrive in orchards 
just to point out the very mistakes that man is making. Producers who 
are fogging their orchards with deadly chemicals are finding that the 
single application sufficient ten years ago now has to be repeated many 
times in the growing season as bugs become resistant to instant death. 

More than twenty years ago Halbleib went to Washington, where he 
testified to the FDA against poison sprays, poison fertilizers, and poison 
seed treatment, not a word of which he would take back today. Since 
that time, he has watched his colleagues administer over five hundred 
n ew chemicals to their trees. Today, says Halbleib, there is not one apple 
grower in his fruit belt that is not in distress. They have used so much 

Live Plants or Dead Planets 267 

. • -1 fW the manager of the USDA chemallurgical plant 

told hi* that 100,000 acres in ^ -a aJo«|>ave 
been so toxified that they won’t grow grass or even weeds and tha 
same is true for huge portions of once-nch potato land m the state 

M "What do we want?” asks Halbleib. “To have children making then 
blood with poisoned food? Have you looked into the reason for such 

lame enrollment in insane asylums and hospitals? Insteadofpourngou 
iThuild more of them, why doesn’t someone study the cause of 

^Lee Fryer an agricultural and nutritional consultant who runs Earth 

, . * nc st ates that in 1968 the figure spent on 

Foods in Washington, U.L>., si htiMon This 

■ , Wilbers in the United States exceeded V billion, ms 

the Vietnam war, the whole of the United States of America s so.l cou 

thefsuccessful use of seaweed as a natural fertilizer 

■£" £2 m=£ tSttZ 


■ L United States is Glenn Graber of Hartville, Ohio, who farms four 

“roundworm was appearing on his tana anu m 

wilting a large percentage of his crops as well as those of h.s nerg 


Because the plague hit at a certain time of year, blame was universally 
t on the weather. Graber also found from analysis that his soil in¬ 
dicated a lack of trace minerals. Raised on the NPK concept which he 
had been following to the letter, Graber wondered what he could do to 
improve matters. He learned that marvelous things had been accom¬ 
plished with seaweed at the Clemson College of Agriculture in South 
Carolina, where researchers had used seaweed meal and a liquid seaweed 
extract manufactured in Kristiansand, Norway, to achieve gains in sweet 
peppers, tomatoes, soya and lima beans, and peas. 

On the basis of the little-heeded Clemson research, Graber decided 
to act, and ever since he has been applying kelp, imported from Norway 
in granulated form, to his land at the annual rate of two hundred pounds 
to the acre. Toward the end of the first season he noticed that healthy 
green mold was forming in the tracks of his farm equipment, his nema¬ 
tode infestation was dramatically reduced, and the bluebottom eradi¬ 
cated. Since then he has never put a pound of artificial fertilizer on his 
land, relying completely on seaweed, rock phosphate from Florida, and 
ground granite from Georgia, and on bacterial action and cover crops 

to produce nitrogen. 

As his soil improved, Graber next realized that he was wasting money 
on pesticides, and abandoned their use, turning instead to a spray made 
of liquefied kelp applied at the rate of three gallons per acre over crops 
throughout the season. Graber is not sure how the liquid seaweed acts 
as a pesticide and says no research has yet been done to find out. Though 
he does not entirely escape infestations of pests from his neighbors 
fields, Graber believes that when he incurs a 10 percent drop in his onion 
crop due to maggot flies, his neighbors are losing over half their crop, 
in spite of every insecticide they try. He is convinced that healthy plants 
on healthy soil resist pests naturally. To prove it he walked one visitor 
through a field of parsley swarming with leafhoppers, which brushed 
against their pants legs but were apparently not feasting on the best¬ 
looking and best-tasting parsley the visitor had ever tried. 

Since his abandonment of commercial fertilizers, Graber has been 
able to give up a plow requiring two tractors to haul it. By simply 
cover-cropping his land with barley and rye, he not only adds humus and 

Live Plants or Dead Planets 269 

nutrients to the soil but allows it to be aerated by the plants’ strong roots 
and by earthworms and microorganisms which flourish in it. The hard- 
pan problem he once had disappeared as if by magic. 

Another dividend to Graber is frost resistance. In one particularly 
unseasonable cold spell, when the mercury dipped to a chilly twenty 
degrees Fahrenheit, all of his freshly transplanted tomatoes and peppers 
withstood the cold with not a single loss, though he remembered that 
under the same conditions they all expired when artificially fertilized. 

Graber thinks the problem of getting organically grown vegetables to 
the consumer is compounded because the present organic outlets do not 
have enough volume to warrant low-cost distribution in any one area. 
He thinks the only road to travel is to work through large food chains, 
which must find a means to isolate organically grown produce on their 
shelves from the conventional supplies. 

Such an approach has recently been pioneered in West Germany by 
Latscha Filialbetriebe of Frankfort, a fast-growing family-owned super¬ 
market chain of 123 stores with a bent for innovation. Latscha has 
introduced chickens, eggs, fruit juices, apples, and frozen green vegeta¬ 
bles which are guaranteed to have only minimal quantities of “residuals” 
such as antibiotics, hormones, lead, and the full spectrum of pesticides. 
All plant products come from farms cultivated along organic gardening 
lines as developed by the German State Institution for Plant Protection 
in Stuttgart 

Latscha says that none of its controlled products costs more than 1 5 
percent more than ordinary equivalents and that its juices and deep- 
frozen items can be offered at prices under those charged for standard 
brands. Though the premium it pays to a cooperative dairy to produce 
milk without such additives as chlorinated hydrocarbons and DDT is 
passed on to the customer, the certified milk has climbed to 10 percent 
of Latscha's sales and the chain’s overall revenues have increased despite 
a generally falling market demand. 

In Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Star Markets are beginning to act 
somewhat like Latscha. They take a trailerload a week of mixed vegeta¬ 
bles that have been grown organically by Glenn Graber and market 
them in separate bins. 


Okver Popenoe, founder of Yes! Inc., one of the dozen natural-food 
outlete in the metropolitan area of Washington, D C., applauding the 
Star Markets effort, pub hi, finger on the reason why their example has 
not yet been Widely followed: "The problem with most food chains is 
that their management and staffs lack commitment to organic princi¬ 
ples, says Popenoe. “This makes it very difficult for them to market 
organically grown produce which looks about the same, or even worse 
to the tyethan feed produce, and costs more. They suffer from 
a credibility gap. Credibility is everything when .t comes to buying 
organic produce. There is no way I know of knowing it is organic unZ 
you su lect it to a gas chromatograph test for pesticide residues Since 

P 7 f C ° S f ‘0 thirty dollars for each item tested, even 

the most purist of grocers use them sparingly. [ think this is the main 

reason why the market for organic produce is so thin. Unless one knows 
one s farmer personally, or has great faith in the honesty of one’s grocer 
one hesitates to pay more for an uncertain benefit ” 

When Graber was asked how his fields compare with those of his 

S :■ r ied dT didly: " In ideal weather «"**» C 

everse. More important to Graber is the fact that he is confident that 

havlTcTSv 50,1 “ ^ 8 ° eS I 0 "® Graber baS reCCntI * ^un to 
he ordered enough of the product from Zook and Ranck in Gap Penn 

ire rr r 80,1 for vegetabie cr ° ps * tbe rate ° f <«*> hundred 

Set r' 1 r ab,e to whether the compel 

an adverse rn ° V ‘ S,ted Zooit and Ranck ' s booth had 

results a h m Tn t r b ° Ut Blodynanllc compost All of them had good 
"Mts and were full of praise. “You can well believe that if a fanner had 

<£fl > money for nothing,’’ says Graber, “he would be raising the very 

ThtwcaTpacV f f T r ,, WOrk " lg 0 " e heCtare ° f land next the 

U y o the University of Fribourg grows enough vegeta- 

Live Plants or Dead Planets 271 

bles during an eight-month season using the biodynamic method and 
the help of only one assistant to feed the two hundred theological 
students in the faculty's dormitories and send a large overflow to the 
public market. “I could teach this method to anyone," says the farmer, 
“as long as he has a natural or artificial supply of water. Just think what 
this could do for Third World countries with their rising population and 

food shortages.” 

For all their success in organic farming, some farmers like Glenn 
Graber feel that many organic proponents tend to be too “purist” and, 
as such, have alienated the chemical interests who might well change 
their closed thinking if met halfway. “It's about time the two camps got 
together to determine what's right and what s wrong, says Graber. This 
is also the opinion of Dr. John Whittaker, a veterinarian in Springfield, 
Missouri, who is animal health editor for the remarkable new monthly, 
Acres USA . Published in Kansas City by Charles Walters, Jr., the 
magazine calls itself a voice not for organic farming but for what Walters 

thinks is a better term: Eco-Agriculture. 

Whittaker is nevertheless not at war with the chemists. He says that 
what is needed is to create common ground on which organic-minded 
farmers can meet with farmers who honestly have accepted the pro¬ 
nouncements of the chemical establishment. “On the one hand,” he 
states, “the chemists have got to stop viewing the natural movement as 
a group of little old ladies working in geranium beds. The truth is there 
can be no sudden death of the technology now extant. There has to be 
a phasing down, a buffering process, a marriage. We have to learn from 

each other.” 

Asked how technology might harmonize with nature, Whittaker 
points to the development of metal proteinates, a process which takes 
minerals and “chelates” or hooks them to organic matter such as pro* 
tein. One of the clearest statements about how proteinates work is that 
of Whittaker’s fellow veterinarian, Phillip M. Hinze, who looks upon 
the physical body not only as a compilation of chemicals but as an 

electric complex as well. 

“The animal body,” says Hinze, “may be thought of as a very comply 
battery that not only receives, stores, and uses electricity for chemical 


purposes, but also maintains itself by assimilating vitamins, minerals, 
amino acids and other products. The body recognizes these substances 
when they come along. Every organic substance has an electromotive 
property which determines whether it can be assimilated. When an 
animal needs nutrients, a signal is sent out to capture that nutrient from 
food that has been ingested. If there is no sickness, and the needed 
ingredients are present, they will be assimilated. Unfortunately the 
needed ingredients don't always correspond with substances considered 
suitable for food. For instance, the requirements of the animal body for 
metals are often met by feeding rations containing inorganic forms of 
these metals. But it happens that inorganic forms of nutritionally essen¬ 
tial metals have different electromotive properties than the same metals 
complexed with organic materials such as amino acids. A pig can't eat 
a nail. It needs organic iron.” 

So does the soil; overharvested, overirrigated and overgrazed, it no 

longer contains the necessary organic minerals to produce good food in 
the form of plants. 

This truth has been recognized by Dr. Mason Rose, Director of the 
Pacific Institute for Advanced Studies, one of the first educational 
institutions in Los Angeles to break away from the standard university 
compartmentalization of knowledge and to teach the manufacture of 
soil humus and the breeding of bacteria. 

Other groups, aware that man, having fouled his nest, must now clean 
it, have been experimenting with ecological farming techniques. A sali¬ 
ent example is the New Alchemy Institute, which projects a host of 
activities, including backyard fish-farming, in climates as varied as those 
of the Canadian Maritime Provinces, New Mexico, California, and 
Costa Rica. The New Alchemists say their trio of goals are “To Restore 
the Lands, Protect the Seas, and Inform the Earth's Stewards.” This is 
what the planet s vegetal covering on terra ftrmd has been doing since 

oog before the advent of man to his stewardship. In that sense, plants 
are the oldest alchemists. 

Live Plants or Dead Planets 273 



Alchemists in the Garden 

The medieval alchemist, whose dream of transmuting one element in o 
another was maliciously ridiculed for centuries, may now be vindicated 

—thanks to the efforts of living plants. 

Early in this century a young Breton schoolboy who was preparing 

himself for a scientific career began to notice a strange fact about the 

hens in his father’s poultry yard. As they scratched the soil they con 

stantly seemed to be pecking at specks of mica, a siliceous materi 

dotting the ground. No one could explain to Louis Kervrari why he 

chickens selected the mica, or why each time a bird was killed for t 

family cooking pot no trace of the mica could be found in its gizzar » 

or why each day the flock produced eggs with calcareous shells though 
they apparently had not ingested any calcium from land which was 
entirely lacking in limestone. It took Kervran many years to establish 
that the chickens were transmuting one element into another. 

Reading a novel by Gustave Flaubert called Bouvard et Pecuchet, 
young Kervran came across a reference to Louis Nicolas Vauquelin, a 
celebrated French chemist, who, “having calculated all the lime in oats 
fed to a hen, found still more in the shells of its eggs. Therefore, there 
is a creation of matter. In what way, no one knows/' 

It seemed to Kervran that, if the hen had somehow been able to 
manufacture calcium in its own body, everything he was taught in his 
chemistry class needed reviewing. Ever since the end of the eighteenth 
century, when Vauquelin's contemporary Antoine Laurent Lavoisier, 
known as the “father of modern chemistry,” had laid down the principle 
that in the universe “nothing is lost, nothing is created, everything is 
transformed, it had been believed that elements could be shifted about 
in different combinations but could not be transmuted one to another; 
millions of experiments appeared to verify Lavoisier’s contention. 

The first crack in this seemingly unshatterable wall around the atom 
came at the start of the twentieth century with the discovery of radioac¬ 
tivity, which showed that some twenty elements could indeed change 
into something different, apparently no longer obeying the law of the 
conservation of matter. Radium, for instance, disintegrates into elec¬ 
tricity, warmth, light, and various substances such as lead, helium and 
other elements. With the advent of nuclear physics, man was even able 
to create certain elements which had been missing on the famous chart 
drawn by the Russian peasant genius Dmitri Mendeleyev, because they 
were thought either to have vanished radioactively in former times or 
to have never existed in a natural state. 

Ernest Rutherford, the British physicist who first theorized the exis¬ 
tence of the atom’s nucleus, showed in 1919 that one could transmute 
elements by bombarding them with alpha particles—identical to helium 
atoms less their electrons—a practice which has continued to the pre¬ 
sent time, with increasingly “heavier artillery.” But even these break¬ 
throughs did not shatter Lavoisier's dictum about the eighty or more 

Alchemists in the Garden 27S 

, . 1 fo f^Vipmists still bold that it is impossible to ! 

reactions occurring in living matter are solely chemical. 

engineer'and W** *££ revered 

^ts^one the calcium conten^of whi^r he had carefuUv measme^He 

t“eckcd the calcium content in both the eggs and feces >ssu,ng 

from the chicken and found the bird had produced four times as muc 

. u i . j When Kervran asked his biochemist col- 
calcium as it had inges ed. When Kema ^ ^ cQme from 

leagues how the extra calcium originated, th y P 

, h , «■*»-■. -oh. k “T" it*?^** .**» 

gency, but it a cnic chicken deprived of calcium 


; j—= = - 

dU Kervran also learned that about the time of WJJ.-"k 
tochedTheycltained four times more lime than was 
of lime from within the egg. This was long before scientists kne 

anything about the atom, says Kervran, so it was too early o 

^Chttof fervran’s friends pointed out to him that as far back as 1600 

, i- «*«* ■ -*• «j« 

It v J rs h ad riven the tree nothing but rain or distilled water. When 

SS Zirf ,h.«* -aw ’»'K'”“> 

pounds whereas the weight of the soil remamed =>PP™“™ tely 
Helmont wondered if the plant had not been able to turn water 

wood, bark, and roots. 


Another vegetal anomaly which interested Kervran was that of 77/- 
landsia , or Spanish moss, which can grow on copper wires without any 
contact with the soil. When burnt there was no copper residue in its ash, 
but iron oxides and other elements, all apparently supplied simply by the 

Henri Spindler, another French scientist, became fascinated with 
how Laminaria, a variety of algae, seemed to be able to manufacture 
iodine. Searching for answers in half-forgotten literature on the dusty 
shelves of libraries, Spindler found that a German researcher by the 
name of Vogel had planted cress seeds in a container covered by a glass 
bell jar and fed them nothing but distilled water. A few months later 
when Vogel burned the adult plants, he found they contained twice the 
amount of sulfur which had been present in their seeds. Spindler also 
uncovered the fact that, soon after Vogel, two Britishers by the names 
of Lawes and Gilbert discovered at the famous Agricultural Research 
Institute at Rothamsted, England, that plants seemed to extract from 
the soil more elements than it contained. 

For seventeen years the Rothamsted researchers cropped a clover 
field, mowing it two or three times a year, and sowing it only every fourth 
year, without adding any fertilizer at all. This piece of land gave cuttings 
so abundant that it was estimated that if one had to add what had been 
removed in the period between the arrival of one swarm of seventeen- 
year locusts and another, it would be necessary to dump on the field over 
5,700 pounds of lime, 2,700 pounds of magnesia, 4,700 pounds of 
potash, 2,700 pounds of phosphoric acid, and 5,700 pounds of nitrogen, 
or more than ten tons of the products combined. Where had all these 
minerals come from? 

Delving deeper into the mystery, Spindler came across the work of 
a Hanoverian baron, Albrecht von Herzeele, who, in 1873, brought out 
a revolutionary new book, The Origin of Inorganic Substances, which 
offered proof that, far from simply absorbing matter from the soil and 
• e air, living plants are continuously creating matter. During his life- 
von Herzeele made hundreds of analyses indicating that, in seeds 
s PK)Uting in distilled water, the original content of potash, phosphorus, 
Magnesium, calcium, and sulfur quite inexplicably increased. Though 
the law of the conservation of matter held that exactly the same mineral 

Alchemists in the Garden 277 

content in plants grown in distilled water would be found as in the seeds 
from which they spring, von Herzeeles analyses proved also that not 
only mineral ash but every one of the plants’ components increased, such 
as the nitrogen which burned off during incineration of the seeds. 

Von Herzeele also discovered that plants seemed to be able to trans¬ 
mute, in alchemical fashion, phosphorus into sulfur, calcium into phos¬ 
phorus, magnesium into calcium, carbonic acid into magnesium, and 

nitrogen into potassium. 

One of the many odd facts in scientific history is that von Herzeele s 
writings, published between 1876 and 1883, were given the silent treat¬ 
ment by official academia, which was supporting the fashion that biolog¬ 
ical phenomena could be explained atomistically according to chemical 
laws. Indeed, most of Herzeeles works never found their way onto 

library shelves. 

Spindler drew the attention of some of his colleagues to von Her¬ 
zeele’s experimentation. One of them was Pierre Baranger, a professor 
and director of the laboratory of organic chemistry at the famous Ecole 
Polytechnique in Paris, which, since its establishment in 1794, has 
trained the best scientific and engineering minds in France. To check 
von Herzeele’s work, Baranger began a series of experiments which were 

to last the best part of a decade. 

These experiments amply confirmed von Herzeele's work and in¬ 
dicated that atomic science might be faced with a veritable revolution. 

When Baranger announced his discoveries to the scientific world m 
January, 1958, before a distinguished audience of chemists, biologists, 
physicists, and mathematicians at Switzerland's Institut Genevois, he 
noted that if his investigations were further developed a certain number 
of theories which did not seem to have the benefit of a sufficiently 

experimental basis might have to be modified. 

This cautious approach dictated by scientific mores was made more 
explicit by Baranger in an interview for Science et Vie in 1959. “My: 
results look impossible,” said Baranger, “but there they are. I have taken j 
every precaution. I have repeated the experiments many times. I ha*; 
made thousands of analyses for years. I have had the results verified by j 
third parties who did not know what I was about. I have used severa \ 


methods. I changed my experimenters. But there’s no way out; we have 
to submit to the evidence: plants know the old secret of the alchemists. 
Every day under our very gaze they are transmuting elements. ” 

By 1963 Baranger had incontestably proven that in the germinations 
of leguminous seeds in a manganese salt solution, manganese disap¬ 
peared and iron appeared in its place. Trying to shed more light on the 
mechanisms involved, he discovered a whole web of complexities related 
to the transmutations of elements in seeds, including the time of their 

germination, the type of light involved, even the exact phase of the 

To understand the enormity of Baranger's work one has to realize that 
nuclear science asserts that in order to form the stability of elements 
such gigantic “energies of fixation” are needed that the alchemists, 
unable to produce and direct such energy, could never have transmuted 
one element into another as they claimed. Yet plants are constantly 
transmuting elements in a manner completely unknown to science with¬ 
out having to resort to enormous modern atom smashers. The tiniest 
blade of grass and the frailest crocus or petunia is able to achieve what 

modern-day alchemists known as nuclear physicists have heretofore 
found impossible. 

M In speakin S of his new research, the quiet, courteous Baranger said: 
“I have been teaching chemistry at the Ecole Polytechnique for twenty 
years, and believe me, the laboratory which I direct is no den of false 
science. But I have never confused respect for science with the taboos 
imposed by intellectual conformism. For me, any meticulously per¬ 
formed experiment is a homage to science even if it shocks our ingrained 
a its. Von Herzeele s experiments were too few to be absolutely con¬ 
vincing. But their results inspired me to control them with all the 
Precaution possible in a modern lab and to repeat them enough times 
®o that they would be statistically irrefutable. That's what I've done.” 

aranger established that seeds of Cerdagne vetch growing in distilled 
water showed no change in phosphorus or potassium content. But seeds 
^°Wing in a calcium salt solution varied their phosphorus and potassium 
ntent by the enormous factor of 10 percent, and that calcium in- 
sed in both groups. “I understand perfectly well,” Baranger told the 

Alchemists in the Carden 279 

science writers, who grilled him with every possible objection during the 
course of their interview, “that you are astonished by these results. For 
they are astonishing. 1 understand perfectly well that you are seeking the 
error which could make nonsense of these experiments. But so far no 
such error has been found. The phenomenon stands: plants can trans¬ 
mute elements.” 

As upsetting and contradictory as Barangers experiments seemed, it 
was pointed out by Science et Vie that nuclear physics itself has reached 
a stage wherein its practitioners use four separate and quite contradic¬ 
tory theories about the atomic nucleus. Moreover, they add, the very 
secret of life has not yet been found, perhaps because no one has yet 
looked for it in the atomic nucleus. So far, they went on, life has been 
considered to be mainly a chemical and molecular phenomenon, but 
perhaps its roots are to be located in the most remote sub-basements and 

cellars of atomic physics. 

The practical consequences of Barangers findings cannot be overesti¬ 
mated. One of these is that certain plants can bring to the soil elements 
useful for the growth of other plants, which could lead to many changes 
in received doctrines about fallows, rotations, mixed crops, fertilizers, or, 
as Friend Sykes found out through actual trials on his Wiltshire land, 
the manuring of infertile soils. Moreover, as Baranger opines, nothing 
prevents us from thinking that certain plants are capable of producing 
rare elements of industrial importance. They appear to supply us with 
an example of subatomic transformation which we are not capable of 
performing in the laboratory without bringing into action particles of 
high energy in exactly the same way we are not capable of bringing about 
at ordinary temperatures the syntheses of innumerable products, either 

alkaloids or others, which are extracted from plants. 

' Kervran, a man with continuing ties to the land despite his urban 
academic duties, began to be fascinated by another phenomenon of a 
global nature which has long been known to agricultural specialists. He 
read in Didier Bertrand’s Magnesium and Life, published in French m 
1960, that each time wheat, maize, potatoes, or any other crop is har¬ 
vested, elements in the earth used by plants in their growth process are 
taken out. Since virgin arable soil contains from 30 to 120 kilograms o 


magnesium per hectare, Bertrand stressed that most of the earth’s arable 
land should long since have been exhausted of this element. Not only 
is this not the case, but in various parts of the world, such as Egypt, 
China, and the Po Valley in Italy, soils continue to remain highly fertile 
in spite of the enormous quantities of magnesium taken from them 
through harvests of crops over thousands of years. Is it because plant life 
is able to upset the periodic table of the elements, to make magnesium 
from calcium or carbon from nitrogen, for instance, that lands have been 
able to replace the products they need, wondered Kervran. 

With the Celtic directness of a Breton, Kervran published his Biologi¬ 
cal Transmutations in 1962, the first of a series of books which offered 
a whole new perspective on living creatures. It made clear that those 
who believe in a system of farming which takes into account chemistry 
alone are in for a rude shock and that man and animals nourished on 
diets formulated by chemists will not long survive. Kervran freely ac¬ 
cepted the notion that Lavoisier was right as far as chemical reactions 
were concerned. The mistake made by science, he said, is to contend 
that all reactions in living organisms are chemical in nature and that, 
consequently, life should be interpreted in chemical terms. Kervran 
suggests that the biological properties of a substance are only inade¬ 
quately determined by chemical analysis. 

Kervran wrote that one of the main purposes of his book wt s “to show 
that matter has a property heretofore unseen, a property which is neither 
in chemistry nor in nuclear physics in its present state. In other words 
the laws of chemistry are not on trial here. The error of numerous 
chemists and biochemists lies in their desire to apply the laws of chemis¬ 
try at any cost, with unverified assertions in a field where chemistry is 
not always applicable. In the final phase the results might be chemistry, 

ut only as a consequence pj the unperceived phenomenon of transmu¬ 

Rudolf Hauschka in his brilliant book The Nature of Substance carries 
ervran and Heerzele s ideas even further, saying that life cannot possi- 
bl y be interpreted in chemical terms because life is not the result of the 
combination of elements but something which precedes the elements, 
atter, says Hauschka, is the precipitate of life. “Is it not more reason- 

Alchemists in the Garden 281 

able,” he asks, “to suppose that life existed long before matter and was 
the product of a pre-existent spiritual cosmos?” 

Supporter of Rudolf Steiner's “spiritual science,” Hauschka is lapi¬ 
dary in his approach when he states that the elements as we know them 
are already corpses, the residue of life forms. Though chemists can 
derive oxygen, hydrogen and carbon from a plant, they cannot derive 
a plant from any combination of these or other elements. “What lives,” 
says Hauschka, “may die; but nothing is created dead.” 

Hauschka, who also duplicated many of Heerzele's experiments, 
found that plants could not only generate matter out of a non material 
sphere, but could “ethereal ize” it once more, noting an emergence and 
disappearance of matter in rhythmic sequence, often in conjunction 
with phases of the moon. 

In Paris, Kervran, a pleasant and forthrightly cooperative man of 
seventy with a prodigious memory for detail, told the authors that 
powerful energies are at work in the germination process of seeds which 
synthesize enzymes, probably by transmuting matter within them. His 
experiments have also convinced him that lunar forces are extremely 
important in germination, though botanists have long asserted that only 
warmth and water are required. 

“We cannot deny the existence of something just because we don’t 
know about it,” said Kervran. “The kind of energies to which the great 
Austrian natural scientist and clairvoyant Rudolf Steiner refers as cosmic 
etheric forces must exist if only from the fact that certain plants will only 
germinate in springtime no matter what amounts of heat and water are 
administered to them during other parts of the year. There are varieties 
of wheat said to germinate only as the days lengthen, but, when days 
are artificially lengthened, the wheat does not always germinate.” 

We do not know what matter really is, says Kervran. We do not know 
what a proton or an electron is made of, and the words serve only to 
cloak our ignorance. He suggests that inside atomic nuclei may lie forces 
and energies of a totally unexpected nature and that a physical theory 
to explain the low energy transmutations with which he deals must be 
sought, not in the hypotheses of classical nuclear physics based on 
powerful interactions, but in the field of hyperweak interactions in 


which there is no assurance of the operation of the established lawsof 
conservationof energy or even the existence of a mass/energy equivalent 

Physicists, says Kervran, are mistaken in claiming that physical laws 
are the same for the living as for inanimate matter. Many physicists 
declare, for instance, that a negative entropy, a force which in biology 
would build up matter, is an impossibility, since the second principle of 
thermodynamics of Carnot-Clausius, regarding the breakdown of en¬ 
ergy, states that there is only positive entropy, i.e., that the natural state 

of matter is chaos and that all things run down and become random, 
losing heat and not acquiring it. 

In contradiction to the physicists, Wilhelm Reich held that the ac¬ 
cumulators he built to collect an energy, which he named “orgone,” 
permanently raised the temperature inside their tops, thus making non¬ 
sense of the second law of thermodynamics. Despite the fact that he 
demonstrated the phenomenon to Albert Einstein in his house in 
Princeton, and that Emstein confirmed the phenomenon, though he 
could not account for it, Reich was considered mad. 

Reich maintained that matter is created from orgone energy, that 
under appropriate conditions matter arises from mass-free orgone, and 
that these conditions are neither rare nor unusual. All of this further 
suggests that in living nature there exists, below the level of Lavoisier’s 
classical molecular chemistry, a deeper level of nuclear chemistry which 
associates and dissociates nucleons, the components of atomic nuclei. In 
molecular combinations heat energy is produced. At the nuclear level ? 
much more powerful energy, that of fission or fusion as in A or H bombs, 
must be added. What remains unexplained is why these fantastic ener¬ 
gies are not released in biological transmutations. 

Science et Vie has postulated that if plasma-type nuclear reactions 
rake place in bombs, in nuclear reactors and in stars, then there must 
»e a wholly different type of reaction, specifically utilized by life, which 
brings about fusion in a strangely quiet way. The magazine suggests the 
analogy of a strongbox which can be opened by dynamite or by a 
ination lock. Like the lock, the atomic nucleus can prove stubborn 
confronted with blind violence but pliable to skillful manipulation, 
be secret of life, so long suspected by vitalists, is as much a secret as 

Alchemists in the Carden 283 

the locksmith's combination. The cleavage between the animate and the 
inanimate is to be found at the level of manipulation of the nuclear lock. 
It appears that, whereas man has to use dynamite, plants and other living 

organisms know the combination. 

Kervran also wonders whether microorganisms can even take sand and 
make it fecund. After all, he maintains, humus comes today from or¬ 
ganic matter but at one time there was no organic matter on earth. 

This raises the question of whether Dr. Wilhelm Reich was not on 
the track of the discovery of the century when he purported that he had 
observed at the microscope energetic vesicles or “bions” which are not 
alive but “carry biological energy.” Exposed to sufficiently high tempera¬ 
tures and made to swell, all matter, even sand, undergoes vesicular 
disintegration, wrote Reich, and the resulting vesicles can later develop 

into bacteria. 

Kervran, who has now retired from his duties as one of France s more 
eminent professors in order to embark on the career of a determined 
alchemist, asks why chemically pure reactions such as the combination 
of one atom of nitrogen and one atom of oxygen can be realized in a 
test tube only at extremely high temperatures and pressures whereas 
living organisms can perform the same feat at room temperature. He 
feels that the biological catalysts known as enzymes are in some way 


In a yearbook entitled Alchemy: Dream or Reality? published in 1973 
in Rouen by the students of the prestigious Institut Nationale Superieur 
de Chimie Industrielle, Kervran writes that microorganisms are a con¬ 
centration of enzymes. Their ability to transmute elements is not a mere 
hooking of peripheral electrons to form bonds as in classical chemistry 
but involves a fundamental alteration of the nucleus of elements. 

Most transmutations have been observed to take place within the first 
twenty elements of the periodic table. They further always seem to 
involve hydrogen or oxygen. Thus the transmutation of potassium to 
calcium is accomplished through the addition of a hydrogen proton. 

Kervran expects the phenomena he describes, and the data he sup 
plies, to irritate chemists because it involves, not the displacement of 
electrons in the peripheral atomic layers and the chemical bonding in 


molecules which lie at the heart of their discipline, but the alteration 
m structural arrangements of atoms induced by enzyme activities in 
living matter. Since this takes place within atomic nuclei, a new science 
distinct from chemistry is involved. Though strange at first sight, the 
new language is so simple that the average high school student can easily 
follow it. Thus, if one has sodium with eleven protons written n Na and 
oxygen with eight protons written gO one need only add the protons 
together to get nineteen, the number which exists in potassium written 

: Following this reasoning, calcium (Ca) can come from potassium (K) 
with the interaction of hydrogen (H) according to the formula jH plus 
j$K equals 2 oCa, or from magnesium with the interaction of oxygen in 
12 ^S P^ us sO equals 2 oCa, or from silicon with the interaction of carbon 
in i 4 Si plus 6 C equals 2 oCa. 

Since nature s atom smashing, according to Kervran, is performed by 
biotic life, microorganisms are thus nature's prime mover in maintaining 
balance in soils. 

In Kervran's view some transmutations are biologically beneficial, 
others dangerous. Since the harmful ones can be countered, the whole 
problem of deficiencies in the soil remains to be reassessed. Indiscrimi¬ 
nate application of NPK fertilizers to the land can alter the content in 
plants of just those elements necessary to healthful nutrition. In this 
connection, Kervran cites the work of an American researcher, who, 
knowing nothing of Kervran's theory of biological transmutations, found 
that in hybrid corn too rich in potassium the content of molybdenum 
decreases. “What are the optimal quantities of these two elements in 
plants? asks Kervran, then continues: “This does not appear to have 
been studied, and there is not only one answer, since values differ not 
Only between species but between varieties of the same species.” 

' Even if potassium fertilizers were no longer available to agricultural¬ 
ists, Kervran says, this would represent no catastrophe since microorgan- 
•snis could produce potassium from calcium. If yeasts and molds for 
Penicillin are already being produced on an industrial scale, why not 
factories for growing microorganisms for the transmutation of elements? 
Already in the late 1960s Dr. Howard Worne started Enzymes, Inc., at 

Alchemists in the Garden 285 

Cherry Hill, New Jersey, where microorganisms bombarded with stron¬ 
tium 90 were being mutated so as to produce enzymes that would 
transmute waste carbon into usable carbon simply by having micro¬ 
organisms ingest one material and excrete a new' one. Dr. Worne is now 
in New Mexico using microorganisms to transform solid waste from 
garbage and stockyards into humus for the compost-hungry Western 
states and methane gas for the energy-hungry Eastern states. 

The understanding of the phenomena of biological transmutation, 
though as yet unrecognized by the majority of the world’s agricultural¬ 
ists, seems to have been anticipated by the advocates of biological 
cultivation, who, above all, realized that a price must be paid for reliance 
on chemistry in a biological context Cultivation based on classical chem¬ 
istry alone, stresses Kervran, fails wherever intensive and abusive meth¬ 
ods are employed. The marked crop increases, such as those for the 
Illinois com, can thus last only a certain time. 

Though not applied as abusively as in America, where huge areas have 
been lost to cultivation because of a surfeit, even the more limited 
European use of artificial fertilizers has led, says Kervran, to a mounting 
lack of resistance in plants to pests. The increase of infestation is no 
more than a consequence of biological imbalance. 

“Classical soil scientists and agronomists attached to the dogma that 
biology equals chemistry,” writes Kervran, “cannot conceive that all that 
is in plants has not been put into the soil. They are not the people to 
advise farmers; farmers should be guided by the enlightened and intelli- 
gent agriculturalists who have long recognized the division between a 
purely chemical and biological agriculture. They might then achieve 
their own conversion, and carry out some of the experiments described 
in this book for themselves. If they are men of good faith, they will admit 
their past errors, but one doesn’t ask that much—only that they act.’ 

Pointing out that the great English astromomical physicist Fred 
Hoyle gave up the theory of the steady state universe which he utilized 
for nearly a quarter of a century and which made him famous, Kervran 
notes that Hoyle himself has recognized that if future observations 
confirm that physics has taken a wrong direction then “the properties 
of matter, the laws of chemistry, for example, would be completely 


i ■ - It is in bulletins such as that of the British Soil Association that 
f Kervran sees articles confirming his ideas of biological transmutation in 
the soil. In the French analog of this bulletin, Nature et Progres , one 
researcher reports that, after analyzing month by month for one year the 
phosphorus content of identical soils, one benefited by fermented com¬ 
post containing no phosphorus and the other by phosphorus-rich farm¬ 
yard manure, the first sample had 314 milligrams of phosphorus at the 
year's end as against only 205 milligrams for the second. The researcher 
concluded: “Therefore the soil containing the greater amount of phos¬ 
phorus was the one without any external supply of this mineral. A 
miracle of the living soil.” 

If Dr. Barry Commoner sees the buyers of artificial fertilizer becom¬ 
ing “hooked” on their product, Kervran says the same thing for plants. 
Offering them chemicals, he writes, is simply drugging them to achieve 
higher yields—for a time. He compares this process to stimulating 

human appetites with an aperitif and then not following it up with a 

Louis-Victor de Broglie, winner of the Nobel Prize for his prediction 
of the wave properties of the electron, has said: “It is premature to want 
to assess vital processes according to the very insufficient physio-chemi- 
cal concepts of the nineteenth or even the twentieth centuries.” Kerv- 
ran, who puts this quotation at the start of the British edition of his 
book, adds: “Who is to say in which present-day branch of physics 
Cental energy,’ the strength of will or character, should be placed? One 
can associate memory with information and negative entropy with cy¬ 
bernetics (or should it be chemistry?) but nothing tells us if intelligence 
itself will not someday be expressed by a physical or chemical law.” 

Jean Lombard, a geologist, in a preface to Kervran’s second book, 
Natural Transmutations, published in 1963, stated that Kervran had 
opened up a wide field, which in itself could lead to clarification of 

confusions in geological theory. Lombard also wrote: “The true workers 
of science, who are always ready to welcome new suggestions, sometimes 
osk themselves if the greatest obstacle to the progress of science is not 
bad memory on the part of scholars; they wish to remind the latter that 
»me of their predecessors were burnt at the stake because of proposed 
oiterpretations' which have now become foremost truths. If pioneers of 

Alchemists in the Garden 287 

science were still being burnt, 1 would not give much for Louis Kervran's 1 


Reviewing Kervran's third book, Low Energy Transmutations, pub¬ 
lished in 1964, Professor Rene Furon, of the Faculty of Sciences at Paris 
University, wrote: “This book completes the two previous ones. It can 
no longer be denied that nature makes magnesium out of calcium (i n 
some cases the reverse takes place); that potassium can come from 
sodium; and that carbon monoxide poisoning can occur without inhala¬ 
tion of CO gas.” 

It appears that outside France, not Western, but Japanese scientists 
have been the first to take Kervran's work seriously. When Hisatoki 
Komaki, a professor of science, read a Japanese translation of Kervran s 
book Biological Transmutations , he tied Kervran's findings into ancient 
Eastern cosmology and wrote to Kervran to say that the transmutation 
of sodium, a yang element, into potassium, a yin element, was of far- 
reaching interest, more especially since Japan has a. paucity of potash 

deposits but ample supplies of sea salt. 

Komaki abandoned his teaching to become head of a biological re¬ 
search laboratory at the Matsushita Electric Company and informed 
Kervran that he would try to confirm the sodium-to-potassium reaction 
and interest his collaborators in applying it on an industrial scale. Koma- 
ki’s research proved to him that various microorganisms, including cer¬ 
tain bacteria and two species each of molds and yeasts, were capable of 
transmuting sodium into potassium and that the yield of bacteria them¬ 
selves was enormously raised when only a small amount of potassium was 
added to the cultures. Komaki has placed on the market a product made 
of brewer's yeast which, applied to composts, raises the potassium con¬ 
tent in them. How this process relates to the action of Biodynamic 
sprays as conceived by Rudolf Steiner and developed by Ehrenfned 

Pfeiffer remains to be determined. 

Kervran’s work is also attracting important notice in the Soviet Un¬ 
ion. Professor A. P. Dubrov of the Institute of Earth Physics of the 
USSR Academy of Sciences, who has been working on the links between 
radiosensitivity in animals and the geomagnetic field, wrote to Kervran 
at the end of 1971 to suggest that the magnetic field of the earth itse 


flpight well play an important role in biological transmutation, and that 
elements might be affected depending on whether biological forms are 
hriented north-south. 

In 1971, a Russian book, Problems of Transmutations in Nature , was 
published in a limited edition in Yerevan, capital of the Armenian 
Republic. Its editor, V. B. Neiman, notes in a lead article, “Transmuta¬ 
tions in Nature: The Present Status of the Problem and Objects for 
further Study,” that the fundamental problems of entropy and negen- 
tropy must be re-examined, and maintains that the diversity of elements 
on earth is due to a series of nuclear transmutations with analogous 
processes applied to biological phenomena. 

3 . Neiman dug out the most extraordinary quotation from Lenin’s 
Materialism and Empirocriticism , proving that the father of the Soviet 
Union tried to incorporate in his materialistic philosophy a notion more 
palatable to vitalists and mystics than to hard-core Communist pragma¬ 
tists. “However miraculous, from the viewpoint of common sense,” 
wrote Lenin, “the conversion of imponderable ether to ponderable 
matter may seem, it is but a further confirmation of dialectic material- 

* j * 


a : In the same collection, P. A. Korol’kov contributed an essay on the 
“Spontaneous Metamorphism of Minerals and Rocks,” in which he 
shows how silicon can be converted to aluminum. In his summary of a 
conference held in July, 1972, devoted to chrome deposition in the 
Urals, Siberia, Kazakhstan, and the Soviet Far East, Korol’kov comes to 
the conclusion that the traditional geological views on the genesis of 
chromite and associated ores do not accord with new data presented at 
die conference. 

> “The fact is,” writes Korol’kov, “that we are witnesses and partici¬ 
pants in a scientific-technological revolution, that is, we are living in a 
bine in which we are being subjected to a radical revision, not of 
TOinutiae, but of the basic status of an inherited natural science. The 
bme has come to recognize that any chemical element can turn into 
pother, under natural conditions, And I am not alone in maintaining 
this. I know a dozen persons in the USSR who hold the same views.” 

If Soviet scientists are coming around to a whole new view of matter 

Alchemists in the Garden 289 

_and even citing Lenin on the possibility of its manufacture by the 

ether itself—it would seem that the ecological revolution so necessary 
to safeguard the future of humanity, and pleaded for in the United 
States since Fairfield Osborn wrote Our Plundered Planet shortly after 
World War II, may have a chance of taking place despite the host of 
adversaries who see in it the demise of their personal fortunes. 

In a review of the American edition of Kervran’s book for the Interna¬ 
tional College of Applied Nutrition, V. Michael Walczak, M.D., an 
internist practicing in Studio City, California, said of Kervran s work: 
“It offers a totally different approach to our understanding of nutritional 
supplementation of the elements and how it functions in the physiologic 
and biochemical pathways of our bodies. It attempts to prove that our 
concepts of simple supplementation for deficiencies is not only question¬ 
able, but in serious error.” 

Though many nutritionists untrained even in simple chemistry are 
giving people huge and unnecessary doses of calcium because it is the 
mineral in largest quantity in the body, Walczak, who is now limiting 
his practice to internal metabolism and nutrition, states that his own 
research shows that 80 percent of his patients—with diets supplemented 
or unsupplemented—have too much calcium and too few' trace minerals 
with respect to calcium. The lack of trace elements in soils, and in foods, 
Walczak maintains, leads to an imbalance in enzyme function. 

Walczak says he is preventing disease by administering the right 
amounts of enzymes, hormones, vitamins, and minerals, which together 
he calls “the key to life,” and also curing a host of degenerative diseases. 
He concludes that the “gold” which the medieval alchemists tried for 
centuries to derive from lead may very well turn out to be the secret for 

obtaining good health and long life. 

Walczak’s views are supported by Richard Barmakian, a nutritionist 
in nearby Pasadena, who wrote to Kervrans American publishers that 
the U.S. version of Biological Transmutations should prove to be “the 
most significant work of this century, scientifically and possibly other 
wise.” It was only after he had read the book that Barmakian thought 
he might at last get to the core of the problem of calcium-metabolisrt 1 
abnormalities and deficiencies w'hich he says are so tragically prevail 

ip pseudo-civilized countries of the world today and especially in the 

This view was echoed by Organic Gardening and Farming , now 
published by J. I. Rodale's son, Robert, which stated that Kervran had 
showed that current chemical treatment of the soil is totally wrong and 
is rapidly destroying the quality of the soil worldwide: “We’re sure that 
us our understanding of the life processes involved in organic farming 
grows, the scientific community will be in for many surprises.” The 
economist Charles Walters, Jr., publisher of Acres USA , also concurs: 
“Louis Kervran has opened a door. His works have received important 
recognition from Russians, Japanese, French and Chinese who don’t 
have to ask the United States Department of Agriculture and the petro¬ 
chemical firms what to think, as is the case with too many extension 
agents, land grant colleges and farmers under the thumb of bank exam- 

* tt 


If doctors, nutritionists, editors, and economists in the United States 
are now beginning to see in Kervran the herald of a new age, as are 
professional scientists abroad, it may be that a revolution is at hand. 
Perhaps the time is near when the dictators of nutritional and agricul¬ 
tural policies, who have forced upon all natural life, from the smallest 
microorganisms to human beings, a drenching of chemicals to the point 
where the only recourse against adulterated food products is the growing 
of one’s own private garden under natural conditions, will have to listen 
to the prophets who have warned against the chemification of the soil 
since the beginning of this century. 

In an age in which science itself has become so specialized and the 
science of life, or biology, so molecular that our technological society 
seems to be producing a crowd of white-coated “idiot savants” who 
Plead lack of competency in all but their own narrow divisions of knowl- 
^e, the broad outlooks of Goethe, Pfeiffer, Howard, Commoner and 
Voisin and the new discoveries by Louis Kervran may be the one an¬ 
tidote to catastrophe. 


Alchemists in the Garden 29J 



On the brighter side of life, a French engineer, Andre Simoneton, has 
found a straw which may keep the population of the planet from going 
under; his device, usable by man, woman, or child, is designed to make 
it possible to select healthy food from bad before ingesting it: it is a 

s >mple pendulum attached to a short piece of string used by diviners of 
Water, lost objects, or the future. 

For millennia the art or science of dowsing with forked stick or 
Pjndulum has been practiced by Chinese, Hindus, Egyptians, Persians, 

. es > Etruscans, Greeks, and Romans. In the Renaissance it was 
re vived by such notables as Goethe’s predecessor as Director of Mines 



in Saxony, Christopher von Schenberg, who had his portrait painted 
holding a dowsing rod, a custom emulated in modern time by Lloyd 
George, who had himself photographed in the same pose. 

Though dowsing has not yet been accepted as a science in America, 
in France it is no longer relegated to the domain of the witch and 
warlock—despite the fact that over the centuries many a French dowser 
has paid with his life for practicing “sorcery.” Among the more cele¬ 
brated victims were Jean du Chatelet, Baron de Beausoleil, and his 
dowser wife Marine de Bertereau, who, working under the protection 
of Marechal d’Effiat, Louis XIV's superintendent of mines, discovered 
several hundred profitable mines in Franee only to be arrested for sorcery 
and succumb in prison, she in Vincennes, he in the Bastille. The perse¬ 
cution has continued in France mostly against doctors who find them¬ 
selves dragged before tribunals for perpetrating dowsing cures on pa¬ 
tients officially declared uncurable. 

That dowsing is no longer considered anathema by the Church is 
thanks largely to the efforts of a long series of French abbes such as 
Mermet, Bouly, Vallemont, Richard, Carrie, Descosse, and Ferran, and 
the recent intercession in Rome of such an eminent churchman as 
Cardinal Tisserant, 

In the scientific community the art is now on the fringe of recognition 
thanks to professors such as Yves Rocard of the College de France, head 
of the physics department of the prestigious Ecole Nor male Superieure, 
who is recognized not only as a brilliant physicist but as an admirable 
dowser. His book on the science of dowsing, Le Signal du Sourcier, as 
yet unpublished in English, has been translated in the Soviet Union 
where geologists have recently been dowsing for minerals from airplanes 
and helicopters, and also locating underground archeological artifacts. 

The Mecca for dowsers in Europe is located in a small Parisian side 
street, now lost between the luxury of the Faubourg Saint Honore and 
the tourist-ridden arcades of the rue de Rivoli, appropriately named for 
Saint Roch, canonized for protecting the populace against various pesti¬ 
lences. The actual Kaaba is an old curiosity shop called the Maison de 
Radiesthesie, “radiesthesie ” being generic for dowsing and for the 
search for radiations beyond the electromagnetic spectrum, an appelh' 


tive given to the art by the Abbe Bouly, who coined it from the Greek 
for “sensitivity” and the Latin for “radiance.” 

On the shelves of this now venerable institution, run for the last half 
century by Alfred Lambert and his wife, are scores of books on dowsing 
—dowsing for water, for objects, and for health. In addition to those 
written by Catholic clergymen, there are others by aristocrats such as 
Count Henry de France and Count Andre de Belizal and by several 
distinguished French physicians. 

There are also brass and mahogany showcases protecting various ex¬ 
otic machines, some simple, some sophisticated, designed to tune in, 
amplify or shield radiations, healthy or toxic. The machines are used 
mostly by doctors from all over the world for diagnostic and curative 
purposes, though the fundamental instrument in each case is the simple 
pendulum. These lie in stacked drawers on velvet cushions designed in 
many shapes and sizes from various materials, including ivory, jade, and 

octagonal quartz or crystal, though any weight on any string or chain is 
said to be effective. 

In the United States, Dr. Zaboj V. Harvalik, a professional physicist 
recently retired from his post as scientific adviser to the U.S. Army's 
Advanced Material Concepts Agency to devote himself to private re¬ 
search, has turned his attention to the dowsing phenomenon and to how 
physical theory might help to explain it. As chief of the research commit¬ 
tee of the American Society of Dowsers, Harvalik is helping to break 

down fifty years of prejudice in official circles against dowsing as a 
“quack art.” 

At his home on the banks of the Potomac River in Lorton, Virginia, 
Harvalik has made meticulous tests to reveal for the first time that 
dowsers react with varying degrees of sensitivity to polarized electromag¬ 
netic radiation, artificial alternating magnetic fields in a frequency range 
from one to one million cycles per second and to DC magnetic fields. 
Harvalik is convinced that dowsers pick up magnetic field gradients 

whether they are trying to find water, underground pipes, wires, tunnels, 

01 geological anomalies. 

Dowsing, however, appears to extend far beyond the detection of 
owing water or the magnetic field gradients thought to be associated 

Dowsing Plants for Health 297 

with water currents. In its broadest definition it is simply searching — 
for anything. The former president of the American Society of Dowsers, 
John Shelley, before his premature death in 1972, amazed his fellow 
naval reserve officers when at the end of a training session at the Pen¬ 
sacola, Florida, Naval Air Station he was able, by using only a small 
dowsing rod, to locate his government salary check, which his colleagues 
had conspired with the help of the paymaster to hide somewhere in a 
huge two-story naval building with dozens of rooms branching out of its 


Gordon MacLean, a research chemist for Pine State By-Products in 
Portland, Maine, who still works full time despite his eighty-odd years, 
will take any visitor out to the Coast Guard lighthouse at Portland Head 
and with his “divining” rod accurately predict when the next oil tanker 
on its way into Portland harbor will appear on the horizon and where. 

Perhaps the most celebrated American dowser is Henry Gross, also 
of Maine, to whose feats Kenneth Roberts, the American historical 
novelist, devoted three books in the 1950s. Like the French abbots, 
Gross is an expert at dowsing from maps. Sitting at his kitchen table, 
he pinpointed on a map of the British-governed island of Bermuda, on 
which no source of water had been found, just those spots where he said 
drilling would produce it. To everyone’s amazement, Gross was correct. 

To physicists like Harvalik the forces at work in map dowsing, which 
do not appear to be related to the magnetic gradients operative in field 
dowsing, are totally inscrutable. Obviously a dowser is contacting some 
source of information which can provide accurate data on areas—or 
parts of space—far removed from his own physical location. Rexford 
Daniels, whose Interference Consultants Company of Concord, Massa¬ 
chusetts, has been pioneering the study for twenty-five years of how 
proliferating electromagnetic emissions interfere with one another and 
may work harmful environmental effects on man, states that he has 
become convinced that some overall force exists in the universe which 
is itself intelligent and provides answers, Daniels theorizes that this force 
operates through a whole spectrum of frequencies not necessarily linked 
to the electromagnetic spectrum and that human beings can mentally 
interact with it. To Daniels dowsing is simply an as yet imperfectly 




■ 4 


I defined though exceedingly useful commnications system. In his eyes 
ad important task confronting man nows to check out the system in 
3 |1 of its aspects. 

The specific technique of dowsing foocfor freshness and vitality was 
learned by engineer Simoneton, now alj> in his eighties—though he 
looks like a successful French businessma in his sixties—from another 
extraordinary Frenchman, Andre Bovis, sfragile tinker who died in his 
native Nice during the Second World Wf. Bovis is most widely known 
for his experiments with pyramids built t the dimensions of the Great 
pyramid of Cheops, which he found woui mysteriously dehydrate and 
mummify dead animals without decompsing them, especially if they 
were placed in a pyramid at the relative bight of the King’s Chamber, 
or one third of the way from the base t( the summit. 

Basic to Bovis' theory is that the earth as positive magnetic currents 
running north to south, negative magneticcurrents running east to west. 
He says that these currents are picked u] by all bodies on the surface 
of the earth, and that any body placed im north-south position will be 
more or less polarized, depending on is shape and consistency. In 
human bodies these telluric currents, bob positive and negative, enter 
through one leg and go out through the oposite hand. At the same time 
cosmic currents from beyond the earth eter through the head and go 
out through the other hand and foot. Th< currents also go out through 
the open eyes, 

All bodies containing water, says Bovis, ccumulate these currents and 
can radiate them slowly. As the currents g* out and act and react against 
other magnetic forces in objects, they aff-ct the pendulum held by the 
dowser. Thus the human body, as a varialle condenser, acts as a detec¬ 
tor, selector and amplifier of short and ultra-short waves; it is a go- 
between for the animal electricity of Gavani and the inanimate elec¬ 
tricity of Volta. 

At the same time the pendulum, say Bovis, acts as a perfect lie 
detector in that if a person is frankly sayiig what he thinks about some 
subject, it will not affect the radiations md thus not affect the pen¬ 
dulum; but anyone saying something diffeent from what he is thinking 
Ganges the wavelengths, making them horter and negative. 

lowing Plants for Health 299 

Bovis developed a pendulum from a similar device which he says was 
used by the ancient Egyptians, made from crystal with a fixed metal 
point suspended on a double strand of red and violet silk. He called it 
"paradiamagnetique” because it is sensitive to objects which are either 
attracted or repelled by a magnet. Bodies which are attracted, such as 
iron, cobalt, nickel, magnesium, chrome, or titanium, be called paramag¬ 
netic; those which are repelled, such as copper, zinc, tin, lead, sulfur and 
bismuth, he called diamagnetic. By placing a small magnetic field in the 
form of a solenoid between the dowser and the pendulum he claimed 
to be able to pick up very faint currents such as those emanating from 
a non fecundated egg. He explained the use of red and violet strands as 
increasing the sensitivity of his pendulum on the grounds that red light 
vibrations are the same as the atomic vibrations of iron, which are 
paramagnetic, and those of violet being the same as copper, which are 


Bovis found that with his pendulum he could tell the intrinsic vitality 
and relative freshness of different foods within their protective skins 
because of the power of their radiations. To measure with his pendulum 
the varying radiant frequencies produced by foods Bovis developed a 
biometre , or simple ruler arbitrarily graduated in centimeters to indicate 
microns, which are thousandths of a millimeter, and angstroms, which 
are a hundred times smaller, covering a band between zero and ten 
thousand angstroms. 

By placing a piece of fruit or vegetable, or any kind of food, at one 
end of the ruler, Bovis could watch his swinging pendulum change 
directions at a certain distance along the ruler, which gave him an 
indication of the degree of the food’s vitality. According to Bovis the 
limit of any object's radiance is overcome at some point by the general 
telluric field surrounding it, and can thus be measured. Dowsers main¬ 
tain that any two objects of the same material and size placed a yard or 
so apart will create two fields which will repel each other at a halfway 
mark easily noted with a pendulum. Increasing the size of one of the 
objects will cause its field to move closer to the smaller object. 

Simoneton found that food which radiates 8,000 to 10,000 angstroms 
on Bovis’ biometre would also cause a pendulum to turn at the remarka¬ 


ble speed of 400 to 500 revolutions per minute in a radius of 80 millime¬ 
ters. Foods which radiate between 6,000 and 8,000 spun it at a rate of 
300 to 400, with a radius of 60 millimeters. Meats, pasteurized milk, and 
overcooked vegetables, which radiate less than 2,000 angstroms, have 
not sufficient energy to make the pendulum spin. 

For those who might complain about the arbitrary selection of ang¬ 
stroms for measuring the relative radiant vitality of objects, Louis Kerv- 
ran, in a preface to Simoneton’s book, Radiations des Aliments , points 
out that the angstrom is no more arbitrary than the calorie used in 
nutrition—a calorie being the quantity of heat required to raise the 
temperature of one gram of water one degree centigrade. All systems of 
measurement, says Kervran, are conventional; Bovis’ angstrom merely 
made it easy to distinguish between the radiant value of fermented 
cheese, which reads at 1,500, and that of fresh olive oil, which reads at 
8,500. In any case, Kervran adds, the wavelengths emitted by fruits and 
vegetables and other biochemical foodstuffs which are picked up with 
the pendulum are of totally unknown nature, apparently outside the 
electromagnetic spectrum. It is simply the fact that they are measurable 
by dowsing methods which remains of great practical value. 

According to Bovis, wavelengths broadcast by an object are picked up 
by the nerves in a human arm and then amplified by means of a 
pendulum swinging at the end of a string. Impressive proof of this has 
been established in Montreal by Jan Merta, whose laboratory experi¬ 
ments clearly indicate that a minute muscular movement occurs in the 
area of the wrist a fraction of a second after a change in the encephalo- 
graph has been registered. Merta has also designed a dowsing device, 
which can be placed not only in the hands but on the arms, shoulders, 
head, legs, or feet, or any other part of the body where it can be 

In line with Bovis and Lakhovsky, Simoneton reasoned that if human 
nerve cells can receive wavelengths they must also be transmitters: 
senders and receivers must be able to enter into resonant vibration with 
each other in order to pick up a transmission. Lakhovsky likened the 
system to two well-tuned pianos: when a note is struck on one it will 
cause the same note to vibrate on the other. 

Dowsing Plants for Health 301 

Some dowsers say that the prime sensor in the human body may be 
located in the area of the solar plexus. This appears to be borne out by 
Harvalik's most recent research. To shield parts of the human body from 
the effects of the ocean of magnetic forces surrounding it, Harvalik took 
an eight-foot-by*ten-inch strip of highly effective magnetic shielding 
(made from a Co-Netic AA Perfection Annealed sheet 0.025 inches 
thick, produced by the Magnetic Shield Division of the Perfection Mica 
Company) and rolled it into a two-layered cylinder which could be 
lowered around the body to shield head, shoulders, torso, or pelvic area. 

With the shield covering his head, Harvalik walked blindfolded across 
a level area known to produce dowsing signals and obtained a strong 
reaction over each of three dowsing zones. The same reactions were 
obtained with his head exposed but his shoulders shielded. Gradually 
lowering the shield, Harvalik found that he could pick up dowsing 
signals until he reached an area between the 7th and 12th rib, that is 
to say from sternum to navel. 

“These measurements," says Harvalik, “suggest that dowsing sensors 
must be located in the region of the solar plexus and that perhaps there 
are additional sensors in the head or brain.” 

Dr.J. A. Kopp of Ebikon, Switzerland, who for years has been work¬ 
ing with dowsing techniques to locate geopathogenic zones that seem 
to be related to high incidences of cancer, reported in 1972 that a 
German engineer, in an experiment analogous to those of Harvalik, had 
himself carried horizontally on a stretcher over a dowsing zone. As his 
head passed the dowsing zone, the rod was undisturbed; when his solar 
plexus was above the same zone, the dowsing rod immediately reacted. 

Using a pendulum to establish the relative radiance of different foods 
was a technique developed by Simoneton as a matter of life or death. 
During the First World War he underwent five operations. One dark 
night lying on a stretcher by a hospital train he overheard two medics 
whispering in the shadows cast by a kerosene lantern that he was so 
severely tubercular there was no chance of his recovery. A forced diet 
of rich food ruined his liver and gave him other unpleasant side effects. 
Barely surviving the ministrations of the medics, Simoneton discovered 
Bovis’ system of selecting fresh and vital foods from poisonous fare. In 


a short time he rid himself not only of the TB but of its side effects and 
became so healthy that years later, at sixty-six and sixty-eight he still 
fathered children, and at seventy was still playing tennis. 

As a young engineer Simoneton had been drafted into the French 
army to work on the new science of radio, which, says Simoneton, was 
in those days at about the level that dowsing is today. During World 
War I Simoneton worked alongside such electrical luminaries as physi¬ 
cist Louis de Broglie, who was to establish that every particle, down to 
a photon of light, is associated with a specific wavelength. 

With this background Simoneton had enough, electrical engineering 
and radio knowledge not to dismiss Bovis as a quack, and was able to 
establish empirically that with Bovis' system he could measure specific 
wavelengths from foods that indicated both vitality and freshness. Milk, 
which he measured at 6.5 thousand angstroms when fresh, lost 40 
percent of its radiation by the end of twelve hours and 90 percent by 
the end of twenty-four. As for pasteurization, Simoneton found that it 
killed the wavelengths dead. The same he found true of pasteurized fruit 
and vegetable juices. Garlic juice, when pasteurized, coagulated like 

dead human blood and its vibrations dropped from around eight thou¬ 
sand angstroms to zero. 

On the other hand freezing fresh fruit and vegetables has the effect 
of prolonging their life; on defrosting they resume their radiance at 
almost the same level as when they were iced. Food placed in a refrigera¬ 
tor will deteriorate, but at a much slower pace. Unripe fruits and vegeta- 

es in a refrigerator may actually increase in radiance as they slowly 

Dehydrated fruit was found by experiment to retain its vitality if 
soaked in “vitalized” water for twenty-four hours, even several months 
after drying, it would reradiate almost as strongly as when freshly picked 
Canned fruits remained perfectly dead. Water turned out to be a very 
strange medium: normally unradiant, it was capable of being “vitalized” 
y association with minerals, human beings, or plants. Some waters, such 
as those at Lourdes, Bovis found, in 1926, to radiate as high as 156,000 

7^nrv? mS EigHt ye3rS latCr SOme ° f the same water sti11 registered 
,UOO angstroms. The Czech-born psychic Jan Merta holds that the 

Dowsing Plants for Health SOS 

rind from apples, pears, and other fruits and vegetables, when left to soak 
in a glass of water overnight, releases healthful vibrations into the water 
which can then be drunk to provide better nourishment than the rind 
itself, which has little or no effect on Simoneton's pendulum. 

To simplify life for readers of his book, Simoneton divided foods into 
four general classes. In the first he placed those foods whose radiant 
wavelength he found higher than the basic human wavelength of 6,500 
angstroms, going up to 10,000 or higher. These include most fruits, 
which run between 8,000 and 10,000 at the peak of their maturity, and 
vegetables if eaten fresh from the garden. Simoneton noted that by the 
time most vegetables get to the market in town they have lost one-third 
of their potency; by the time they have been subjected to cooking, they 
have lost another third. 

Simoneton says fruits are filled with solar radiation in the healthful 
light spectrum between the bands of infrared and ultraviolet, and that 
their radiance rises slowly to a peak while ripening, then gradually 
decreases to zero at putrefaction. The banana, which is healthily edible 
for about eight days out of a span of twenty-four between the time it 
is picked and when it starts to rot, gives off optimum vibrations when 
it is yellow, not so good when green, and very low when black. 

Anyone who has lived in pineapple-growing areas of the world such 
as the Hawaiian islands knows that a pineapple picked and eaten at the 
precise time of its ripening—a period lasting no longer than a few hours 
—has a delicious taste which amazes people who have only eaten store- 
bought fruit picked long before they come to maturity. 

Vegetables are most radiant if eaten raw, two raw carrots being better 
than a plateful of cooked ones. The potato, which has a radiance of only 
2,000 angstroms when raw (perhaps because it grows underground hid¬ 
den from the sun), mysteriously rises to 7,000 angstroms when boiled 
and all the way to a very healthy 9,000 when baked. The same applies 
to other tubers. 

Legumes, such as peas, beans, lentils, or chickpeas, rate 7,000 to 8,000 
when fresh. Dried they lose most of their radiance. They become heavy, 
indigestible, and hard on the liver, says Simoneton. To benefit from 
legumes they too should be eaten raw and freshly picked. Optimum 


j^sults, says Simoneton, come from their juices, especially if drunk at 10 
A ,M- and 5 p.m. when they are easily digested and do not tire the system 
but nourish it. 

On Simoneton’s scale wheat has a radiance of 8,500 angstroms; when 
cooked this rises to 9,000. He says wheat can and should be eaten in a 
variety of ways rather than simply in bread. Whole-wheat flour should 
be mixed into pies, tarts, and other pastries with butter, eggs, milk, 
fruits, and vegetables. Baked in a wood-burning oven, bread gives off 
even better radiations than if cooked with coal or gas. 

Olive oil was found by Simoneton to have a high radiance of 8,500, 
and to be extremely long-lasting. Six years after pressing it still gives off 
around 7,500. Butter, which radiates about 8,000, is good for about ten 
days before it starts to fall off, reaching bottom in about twenty days. 

Ocean fish and shellfish are good foods with a bright radiance from 
8,500 to 9,000 especially if caught fresh and eaten raw. This includes 
crabs, oysters, clams, and other shellfish. Lobsters, says Simoneton, are 

best cut in half while live and broiled on a wood fire. Fresh water fish 
is much less radiant. 

In Simoneton’s second category he places foods radiating from 6,500 
down to 3,000 angstroms. These include eggs, peanut oil, wine, boiled 
vegetables, cane sugar, and cooked fish. He rates a good red wine be¬ 
tween 4,000 and 5,000, and says it is a better drink than devitalized city 
water, and certainly better than coffee, chocolate, liquor, or pasteurized 
fruit juices, which have virtually no radiance. 

Echoing Nichols, Simoneton says that, whereas the juice of a fresh 
sugar beet gives 8,500 angstroms, refined beet sugar can fall as low as 
1,000, and the white lumps that get wrapped in papers are down to zero. 

Of meats, the only one that makes Simoneton’s list of edible foods 
is freshly smoked ham. Freshly killed pork radiates at 6,500, as: does all 
animal meat; but once it has been soaked in salt and hung over a wood 
nre its radiance rises to 9,500 or 10,000 angstroms. Other meats are 
almost pointless to eat; they are an exercise in tough digestion, which 
Wears out rather than vitalizes the eater, requiring him to drink coffee 
® keep from falling asleep. 

Cooked meats, sausages, and other innards are all in Simoneton’s 

Dowsing Plants for Health 305 

third category along with coffee, tea, chocolate, jams, fermented 
cheeses, and white bread. Because of their low radiation they do one 
little or no good, says Simoneton. 

In his fourth category are margarines, preserves, alcohols, liquors, 
refined white sugar, and bleached white flour: all dead as far as radiations 
are concerned. 

Applying his technique for measuring wavelengths directly to human 
beings, Simoneton found that the normal healthy person gives off a 
radiance of about 6,500 or a little higher, whereas the radiations given 
off by tobacco smokers, alcohol imbibers, and carrion eaters are uni¬ 
formly lower. Bo vis claimed that cancer patients give off a wavelength 
of 4,875, which, he noted,-was the same wavelength as that of over- 
refined white French bread before the Second World War. 

However, because a cancer victim will radiate this low level long 
before any overt symptom of his disease is in evidence, Bovis pointed 
out that it is possible to take remedial steps well before the ailment has 
made serious inroads into the body’s cellular tissue. 

It is Bovis and Simoneton’s thesis that human beings should eat fruit, 
vegetables, nuts, and fresh fish that give off radiations higher than their 
own normal 6,500, if they wish to energize themselves and feel healthy. 
They believe that low-radiance foods, such as meats and bad bread, 
instead of bringing vitality to the body, sap the body of its existing 
vitality and that that is why one can feel heavy and devitalized from a 
meal one expected to replenish one’s energy. 

From the fact that most microbes read well below 6.5 thousand 
angstroms, Simoneton, like Lakhovsky, deduces that they can only affect 
a human being whose vitality has been lowered to a point where cells 
resonate at their wavelength, whereas a body with a healthy vitality 
remains immune to attack by microbes. This gives a raison d'etre for 
deadly microbes in an ordered universe. The same principle, no doubt, 
explains why plants whose radiance has been reduced by chemical fertil¬ 
izers are subject to attack by pests. 

It struck Simoneton that the therapeutic marvels attributed since the 
dawn of history to herbs, flowers, roots, and barks might not be due 
simply to their chemical content, but the healthy wavelengths they 
radiate. Though the apothecary’s shelves are still stocked with chemical 


der.Vat.ves from plants and herbs, their curative powers no longer appear 
JO miraculous. The secret of their potency seems to have been lost 
Old wives and hermits are still reputed to know and understand the 
mysterious healmg powers of plants, but they must have acquired their 
knowledge by some extra sense, or the woods would be strewn with the 

corpses of accidented sages, poisoned by belladonna, deadly nightshade 
and a host of other noxious weeds. 

Simoneton believes the day will soon come when vaccines are made 

not from the bodies or carcasses of animals but from the radiant juice 

of plants. To set the world right Simoneton envisages doctors with 

headphones like radio operators, able to diagnose by the frequencies they 

receive from patients just what ails them, able to broadcast to them just 
the frequencies required to set things right. 

. Per 7 PS th f mOSt informed doctor in the h “Kng P°wer of plants was 
Paracelsus, who acqmred his lore from old European herbalists, from men of the East, but primarily from the direct study of nature. 

According to his “doctnne of sympathetic resemblances” all growing 

thrags reveal through their structure, form, color, and aroma, their 

pecuhar usefulness to man. Paracelsus recommended that a physician sit 

quretly ,n a meadow, relax and soon notice “how the blossoms follow the 

■nobon of the planets, opening their petals according to the phases of 

the moon, by the cycle of the sun, or in response to distant stars.” 

, A m0d “ n fo ' lower ° f Paracelsus who turned out to be an extraordi- 
ry wizard wrth herbs and plants was a young London doctor, Edward 

in A roaif VC UP * handsome P ractice as a physician on Harley Street 
m the 1930s to take to the woods and fields in search of a better cure 

health^ °! h T" bCingS Uke Paracelsus who sought to restore 
aralth by natural means so that it would not be necessary for the sick 

tet to recover from their ailment and then have to recover from the 

e, Bach rebelled aga.nst the idea that medicine should be painful and 

Peasant. Noting that in most hospitals in England the soiled 

gave ; he Padent «"* Pa'" and often did him more harm than 

be h ’ V? S determined to find remedies in nature that would neither 
armful nor unpleasant. He sought a remedy that would be gentle, 
«■*, and would result in healing of both mind and body. 

1 e aracelsus and Goethe, Bach was convinced that true knowledge 

Dowsing Plants for Health 307 

was to be gained not through man’s intellect, but through his ability to 
see and accept the natural, simple truths of life. Paracelsus had asserted 
that the further you search the greater you will realize the simplicity of 
all creation, and advised physicians to search within themselves for the 
spiritual insight that would lead them to sense and recognize the ener¬ 
gies of plants. 

In the summer of 1930 Bach turned the key on his lucrative practice 
and took to the highway, wandering through the English countryside 
and into the wild mountains of Wales in search of the wildflowers he 
was convinced contained the secret to healing both the spiritual and 
physical ailments of aberrant mankind. Like Paracelsus he was con¬ 
vinced that disease of the body is due not primarily to physical causes, 
but to disturbing moods or states of mind which interfere with the 
normal happiness of the individual, moods which if allowed to continue 
lead to a disturbance of the functions of the bodily organs and tissues 
with resulting ill health. 

With Paracelsus, Bach believed that everything that lives radiates, 
and with Simoneton, he realized that plants with high vibrations were 
able to raise the lowered vibrations of human beings. As he put it, 
“herbal remedies have the power to elevate our vibrations, and thus draw 
down spiritual power, which cleanses mind and body, and heals. Bach 
compared his remedies to that of beautiful music or arrangements of 
color, or any gloriously uplifting medium that gives inspiration; his cure 
was not to attack the disease, but to flood the body with beautiful 
vibrations from wild herbs and flowers, in the presence of which “disease 
would melt away as snow in the sunshine.” 

Myrna I. Lewis, coauthor with Robert N. Butler, M.D., of a new 
book, Aging and Mental Health, was amazed when recently taken by 
the Soviets on a visit to several sanitariums in the Black Sea city of Sochi 
to find aging Soviet citizens, afflicted with a variety of ills, both physical 
and mental, being treated not with drugs but with vibrations from 
flowers in greenhouses where they were led to smell specific blooms so 
many minutes a day. They were also being treated with music played 
in their rooms and the sound of the sea recorded on tapes. 

Fundamentally, Bach maintains that it is up to the sick person to 


change his mind about his own illness, but that healthy aesthetic vibra- 

tions help him recover his desire to be well. Bach felt that a long bout 

of fear or worry could deplete an individual's vitality to the point where 

his body lost its natural resistance to disease, and was thus in a state to 

become the prey of any infection and any form of illness. “It is not the 

disease which needs the treatment,” said Bach. "There are no diseases; 
only sick people.” 

Although he was convinced that plants with the right medical proper¬ 
ties were to be found among the simple wildflowers of the countryside, 
Bach was out to find those with the greatest power, capable of being 
more than palliatives, actually able to restore health to mind and body. 

The first flower he tested for its medicinal properties was the yellow- 

spired agrimony (Agrimonia eupatoria), a common wildflower which 

grows in abundance on the grassy verges of country roads and fields 

throughout England. Its small blooms are golden with many stamens of 

the same hue. Bach found an infusion of it to be a great remedy for 

worry, for the restless tormented state of mind so often hidden behind 

outward cheerfulness. Next he experimented with the striking blue 

flower of chicory, which he found a remedy for overconcern, especially 

for others, and discovered that it brought calmness and serenity. Bach’s 

remedy for extreme fear was the administration of a dose of the elixir 

of rockrose. As his discoveries and ministrations progressed, Bach felt he 

was on the verge of discovering an entirely new system of medicine. On 

impulse or instinct he went to the Welsh wilderness, where he found 

two beautiful plants: the pale mauve impatiens, and the golden-flowered 

mimulus, growing in profusion near a mountain stream. Both turned out 
to be powerful medicines. 

During his months in Wales, Bach felt his senses quickening, becom¬ 
ing more developed. Through a finely developed sense of touch he was 
able to feel the vibrations and power emitted by any plant he wished 
to test. Like Paracelsus, if he held a petal or bloom in the palm of his 
hand or placed it on his tongue he could feel in his body the effects of 
the properties within that plant. Some had a strengthening, vitalizing 
ettect on his mind and body; others would give him pain, vomiting, 
evers > rashes, and the like. His instinct told him that the best plants 

Dowsing Plants for Health 309 

would be found blooming in the middle of the year, when the days are 
longest and the sun at the height of its power and strength. The plants 
he chose were the most perfect of their kind, their bloom beautiful in 
shape and hue, growing in profusion. 

Perhaps Bach had read that Paracelsus on his estate at Hohenheim 
had captured dew on plates of glass, gathering the dew under various 
configurations of the heavenly bodies, believing the water to carry within 
it the energy of these planetary combinations, or perhaps he had a flash 
of intuition. At any rate, early one morning as he walked through a field 
upon which the dew still lay heavy, it struck Bach that each dewdrop 
must contain some of the properties of the plant upon which it rested; 
the heat of the sun, acting through the fluid, would serve to draw out 
these properties until each drop was magnetized with power. He realized 
that if he could obtain the medicinal properties of the plants he was 
seeking in this way, the resulting remedies would contain the full, 
perfect, and uncontaminated power of the plants, and they might heal 
as no medical preparations had been known to heal before. Collecting 
the dew from certain flowers before the sun had caused evaporation, he 
tried it on himself, shaking the drops from various flowering plants into 
small bottles, filling some with the dew from flowers which had been 
in full sunlight, some from those still in shade, although the latter never 
seemed as potent as the ones in the sun. 

Though many of the flowers did not contain the healing properties 
he sought, Bach found the dew from each plant held a definite power 
of some kind, and deduced that the sun’s radiation was essential to the 
process of extraction. As collecting sufficient dew from individual flowers 
could be laborious he decided to pick a few blooms from a chosen plant 
and place them in a glass bowl filled with water from a clear stream, 
leaving them standing in the field in the sunlight for several hours. To 
his delight he found that the water became impregnated with the 
vibrations and power of the plant and was very potent. To potentize his 
water Bach would choose a summer day with no clouds to obscure the 
sun's light and heat. Taking three small plain glass bowls filled with fresh 
water, he set them in a field where the flowering plants were growing, 
then selected the most perfect blossoms and placed them on the surface 


of the water. To lift the blooms from the water without touching the 

fluid with his fingers he used two blades of grass. The water was then 

transferred by means of a small lipped phial to bottles. When half-full 

the rest of the bottle was filled with brandy designed to preserve the 

. mixture. Before the next experiment Bach would destroy both bowls and 

Altogether Bach produced thirty-eight remedies and wrote a philoso¬ 
phic booklet to go with them. Thousands of patients throughout En- 
gland and the world were to vouch for their efficacy, and many thou¬ 
sands still depend on this elixir of flowers to cure them of innumerable 

The work of Maurice Messegue, a sophisticated Frenchman born of 
peasant stock in a remote section of Gascony known as the Gers, paral¬ 
lels that of Bach. Taught by his father, who took him as a child on 
herb-collecting trips all over the countryside, Messegue went on to 
become a famous herbal healer successfully treating hundreds of patients 
including such notables as the president of the French Republic 
Edouard Herriot, and artist Jean Cocteau. Among the afflictions he 
cured were such baffling ones as a withered arm on a beautiful young 
girl and the apparent inability to talk in a child of twelve. Most of 
Messegue s cures were effected by having his patients soak their extremi¬ 
ties m infusions of wild plants. Hounded into court on many occasions 
for practicing medicine without a medical degree, Messegue fought back 
because he felt he could not abandon the thousands of sufferers who 
pleaded for his assistance. An account of his life with many anecdotes 
*bout his encounters with world figures appears in three best-selling 
hooks he has written on the subject of plants. 

. Another sensitive who can feel the radiations from flowers has gone 

Bach and Messegue one better, saying he can transfer radiations direct 

bom a blooming flower into a bowl of water without in any way harming 
ffic plant on which it grows. 

A ruddy-cheeked Scotsman, very independent, Alick Mclnnes was 
hom and lives on a sheep farm in the shadow of the castle of the Thane 
^ Cawdor, surrounded by gently rolling hills and a fortune in peat bog 
"'“--which he cannot dig or bum because by Scottish tradition it all 

Dowsing Plants for Health 311 


belongs to the Thane, Blindfolded, Mclnnes can put his hand over a ripe 
bloom and tell from the wavelength of its radiation just what plant it 
is and what its medical properties may be. In India, where he spent 
thirty years working for the British Raj, Mclnnes got his first introduc¬ 
tion to the fact that plants not only give off radiations which are sensible 
to humans, but are themselves sensitive to the radiations given off by 
humans; this he discovered when he visited the Bose Institute near 


By the entrance to the Institute stands a luxuriant Mimosa pudica. 
Visitors are requested to pick a small frond from this compliant horticul¬ 
tural guinea pig and place it in one of Bose's complicated machines, 
which provides a schematic pattern of the vibrations of the plant on a 
sheet of paper. A visitor is then asked to place his wrist inside the 
machine and watch as a duplicate of the pattern is produced, demon¬ 
strating that mimosa is so sensitive it can pick up and faultlessly reflect 
individual human radiations. 

As Mclnnes interprets the phenomenon of human and plant radia¬ 
tions, each individual member of either kingdom modifies or qualifies 
with his own wavelength the fundamental energy radiating through 
him. The same applies, says Mclnnes, down to the finest particle of 
matter: “Everything radiates wavelengths which can be identified as 
sound, color, form, movement, perfume, temperature and intelligence.” 

Mclnnes says the radiations from some flowers are circular, others go 
from left to right, others from right to left. Some go up and down; others 
down and up; some go diagonally from left to right; others in the 
opposite direction. Some feel cold; others warm. But the same flower 
species always gives off the same radiation. Mclnnes says he has found 
it possible to transfer flower radiations to water, where the radiations will 
stay more or less indefinitely. He has some bottles with radiations still 
effective after twenty years. Each flower species has a time when its 
radiations can best be transferred to water, usually, though not always, 
when the flowers are at the peak of their maturity, which is also usually 

near a full moon. 

Potencies, as Mclnnes calls the radiations which are transferred to 
water, can be taken from the rose around midsummer, or June 21, an 


f from the dandelion around the Easter full moon. When conditions are 
right, transfer of the radiations is instantaneous, and Mclnnes, wrinkling 
his weatherbeaten lips into a wise smile, says the water can actually be 
seen to change, “an awe-inspiring experience never to be forgotten." Far 
from damaging the plant, Mclnnes says that just at that moment when 
its potency is transferred to water, other members of the same species 
for miles around brighten up and appear to grow more vigorously than 
before. The resulting potentized water Mclnnes calls an Exultation of 
Flowers, which he says is not a specific for the treatment of any diagnosa- 
ble disease, but operates in a subtle way on the radiations coming 
through the human body, on animal or the soil, and in so doing raises 
the vitality of the person, animal, or soil concerned. When vitality is 
raised to the necessary level, says Mclnnes, illness disappears. 

Mclnnes prescribes his Exultation to be taken by mouth, so many 
drops at a time for varying conditions, as a salve for cuts and burns and 
other problems of the skin, and as a tonic diluted in one’s bath. He says 
that although he has been asked to do so he has never attempted to find 
individual flowers, or groups, that would be helpful in the treatment of 
a particular disease. He figures it more worthwhile to work on the 
concept that all illness has a common cause, and strives for a preparation 
that will, ultimately, bring results to every illness, no matter what the 
diagnosis. The decision as to whether potencies from any particular 
flower should be included in the forty-odd varieties in his Exultation has 
been made by Mclnnes by feeling the radiations emanating from the 
particular potency concerned. He finds that not all can be mixed success¬ 
fully. Some seem to cancel each other out; others disturb the mixture; 
others upset the temper of the radiations already in the preparation. 

Mclnnes is amazed at how many differing radiations he has managed 
to combine in a harmonious whole. 

As the radiations in Exultation of Flowers are not identifiable by 
ordinary methods of analysis based on the identification of chemical 
mgredients, and as so far the impulses cannot be identified by any 
measuring instrument available in Britain, Mclnnes has been obliged by 
^ court action instituted by the Scottish health authorities to label his 
oottles “Guaranteed Chemical Composition—100% water, without 

Dowsing Plants for Health 313 

herbal or chemical ingredients/’ Pointing out that magnetized steel and 
ordinary steel show the same chemical ingredients but are obviously 
quite different from each other, Mclnnes still hopes some new method 
will be devised to identify the radiations. 

Mclnnes says his Exultation is just as good for a cow with milk fever 
in Scotland as it is for a man with asthma in California or a woman stung 
by a wasp in New Zealand. It can be used on a baby with a stomach 
ache, on a hive of bees with "foul brood,” on strawberry plants with 
"June yellows” or on hens which have eaten poisoned grain. Sprayed 
onto the soil Mclnnes says it increases the activity and quality of soil 
bacteria. But he warns that gardens which have been treated with 
chemical fertilizers will take longer to respond "because the whole 
polarity of the soil has been geared to decay.” He says the vibrations of 
his Exultation channel fresh energy into the soil which counteracts 
disease, blight, and pests. 

In the more than sixteen years since Exultation of Flowers was first 
offered to the public, many thousands of letters have been received 
reporting success in the treatment of pretty well every diagnosable 
disease. Philosophically Mclnnes believes that all forms of life are 
created to live in harmony, but mankind has so misused this dominion 
over created things that there is now disharmony everywhere, which is 
expressed in physical disease in human, animal, and plant life, the life 
forces coming from the Source of Creation becoming more and more 
distorted. Believing that in the Golden Age the lion would lie down with 
the lamb, he describes how, when he lived in Uganda, he would watch 
hundreds of animals making tracks through the elephant grass toward 
the salt licks, with carnivores such as leopards and panthers trotting 
alongside tiny timorous deer that in other circumstances would tremble 
and run away. 

In South India, where Mclnnes spent a couple of weeks as the guest 
of Ramana Mohan Maharshi at his ashram at the foot of the holy hill 
Arunachalam, famed in Hindu mythology for many centuries, every 
evening when the Maharshi would go out for a walk, within seconds of 
his crossing the threshold of his residence, cattle tied up in stalls in the 
nearby village, about half a mile away, would struggle to get out of their 


fconds. Released by the villagers they careered along the road to accom¬ 
pany the old man on his walk, followed by all the dogs and children of 
the village. 

Before the procession had gone very far wild animals, says Mclnnes, 
joined it from the jungle, including several varieties of snakes. Thou¬ 
sands of birds appeared, almost blotting out the sky, including tiny tits, 
huge kites and other birds of prey, heavy-winged vultures, all flying in 
harmony around the Maharshi on his walk. When he returned to his 
room, said Mclnnes, all the birds, animals, and children would quietly 
disappear. To achieve such an atmosphere worldwide, Mclnnes realizes 
would be quite a feat. His Exultation would have to help produce 
vegetation of such an improved nutritive quality that the lion could feed 
on it before he would happily lie down with the lamb. Mclnnes sees no 

reason such a food plant could not be encouraged by some new Burbank 
to grow in abundance. 

There will also have to be an increase in the sensitivity of humanity 

says Mclnnes, to the point where the sacrifice of animals to sport 

becomes wholly intolerable, as well as the mass slaughter of animals in 

total terror in abattoirs. Better food must be more easily obtainable in 

such abundance that half-starved and semi-brutalized men no longer 

need to eat meat or demand work of half-dead, diseased, and suffering 

animals; in other words, we must cease to be a planet of jailors and 
chain-gang drivers. 

As everything created is interdependent, says Mclnnes, it follows that 

what affects one form of life must affect all other forms as well. "If we 

deliberately cause suffering and disease in other lives, we increase our 

own suffering and disease.” All creation, says Mclnnes, is affected by the 

disease inflicted on laboratory animals in what he believes to be a futile 

and foredoomed attempt to combat illness. All creation is tormented 

through the ghastly agonies which the vivisectionist inflicts on helpless 

creatures. Any relief of illness supposed to be removed by knowledge 

gamed at the expense of such agonies will, says Mclnnes, be paid for 

diany times over in increased suffering in some other part of the Whole. 

creation suffers when plants in their millions are burnt by chemical 
*eed killers. 

Dowsing Plants for Health 315 

Just as every created thing takes a knock for every victim of war o r 
every inmate tortured in a concentration camp, so every created thing 
takes a knock when a rabbit dies of human-induced myxomatosis, or a 
plant dies in agony, deliberately diseased with toxic chemicals. “All of 
life/' says Mclnnes, “is one. There is no exception.” 



Radionic Pesticides 

Simoneton's dream that doctors with earphones would one day diagnose 
patients simply by tuning in to the frequencies given off by their ailing 
organs and then be able to cure them by broadcasting to the organs more 
healthful vibrations has turned out to be closer to fact than fiction. 
However, because the mechanism appears to be as explosive as TNT and 
as amenable to the spread of death and disease as it is to the spread of 
life, the findings have been discreetly scotched by both the political and 
scientific establishments. 

At the end of the nineteenth centuiy Dr. Albert Abrams, the son of 
a successful San Francisco merchant from whom he had inherited a vast 

fortune, traveled to Heidelberg to study advanced medicine. In Naples 
young Abrams watched the famous Italian tenor Enrico Caruso flick a 
wine glass with his finger to produce a pure tone, then step back and 
by singing the same note shatter the glass. This impressive feat awoke 
in Abrams the idea that he might have stumbled on a fundamental 
principle which could be tied into medical diagnosis and healing. 

At the University of Heidelberg’s medical school, from which he was 
to receive top honors and the gold medal, Abrams met a Professor de 
Sauer, who was engaged—many years before Gurwitsch had happened 
on “mitogenetic radiation”—in a bizarre series of experiments with 
plants. De Sauer told Abrams that, while transplanting onion seedlings, 
he had inadvertently left some of the uprooted onions next to those still 
growing in one of several flats. Two days later he noticed that the 
seedlings growing on the side of the flat next to the dying plants were 
different in appearance from those on the opposite side, De Sauer could 
not explain the reason for the difference but Abrams was convinced that 
the onion roots were emitting some strange form of radiation and linked 
this in his mind with the resonance phenomenon behind Caruso’s voice- 
shattered glass. 

Abrams returned to the United States to teach pathology at Stanford 
University’s medical school, of which he was later to become director 
of medical studies. A superb diagnostician and master of the art of 
percussion, he would tap the body of a patient to produce resonating 
sounds, which became clues to whatever ills might be afflicting the 
patient. One day Abrams noticed that when a nearby X-ray apparatus 
was switched on without warning it dulled the resonant note he was 
getting from his tapping. Perplexed, Abrams rotated his patient and 
discovered that the strange dulling occurred only while the man faced 
east and west, but that when he was aligned north and south the 
percussion note was continuously resonant. There seemed to be a rela¬ 
tionship between the geomagnetic field and—as with the grains re¬ 
searched by Pittman in Alberta—the electromagnetic fields of individu¬ 
als. Abrams later discovered a similar effect was produced by a man with 
a cancerous ulcer of the lip, even when the X-ray machine was not 


After several months of experimentation with persons afflicted with 
various maladies, Abrams concluded that nerve fibers in the epigastric 
region not only react by contracting to the stimulus of X-rays generated 
from a machine several yards distant, but appear to be in a state of 
permanent contraction in the case of a patient suffering from cancer, 
except when the patient is oriented in a north-south direction. Because 
of this similarity, Abrams concluded that the contractions, due in the 
first case to radiant energy rippling from an X-ray instrument, were in 
the second case taking place in response to vibrating molecules which 
were collectively forming the cancerous growth. 

Abrams asked his houseboy, Ivor, who had accompanied him to class, 
to step onto the lecture platform, strip to the waist, and face west. As 
he tapped the boy just above the navel, Abrams told his students to listen 
carefully to the hollow, resonant quality of the note he was obtaining 
He then asked one young doctor to hold a specimen of cancerous tissue 
m light contact with Ivor’s forehead, applying it for a few seconds, 
removing it, and applying it again. As Abrams continuously percussed 
the abdomen, the class was amazed to hear the note change from 
resonance to dullness each time the specimen was placed on Ivor’s 
forehead, apparently because of a contraction of muscle fibers. When 
Abrams substituted a tuberculous specimen for the cancerous one, the 
resonance of the note did not change. But when he began tapping an 
area just below the navel, the same effect was produced. Abrams was 
forced to the conclusion that unknown waves from diseased specimens 
could be received and recorded by a healthy human body and that they 
somehow altered the character of its tissues. 

After months of work, Abrams was able to show that a series of what 
he called “electronic reactions,” varying from cancerous and tuberculer 
lo malarial and streptococcal, could be pinpointed on different areas of 
tte trunk of a healthy person like Ivor. This led him to proclaim that 
me time-honored idea that disease was of cellular origin was out of date 
, must be discarded. Instead, he maintained it was because the 
Moecular constituents of cells undergo a structural alteration, specifi- 

th y a Ch3nge m tlle number anc * arrangement of their electrons, that 
evelop characteristics which only later become visible at the mi- 

Radionic Pesticides 319 

croscope. Exactly what caused the alteration Abrams did not know, nor 
does anyone today. He nevertheless suspected that forces could be 
discovered for correcting what he considered to be intramolecular aber¬ 
rations, and even for preventing their occurrence. 

Abrams next found that the radiation from a pathological specimen 
could be transmitted, like electricity, over a six-foot wire. When a 
skeptical doctor challenged Abrams to find the exact location of a 
tuberculosis infection in his lung for which he had been receiving treat¬ 
ment in a sanitarium, Abrams immediately had the man hold one disc 
against his forehead and got another student to pass the second disc over 
the subject’s chest until the percussing note changed in tone, The 
baffled man admitted Abrams had located the infection within centime¬ 

Since one spot on the trunk of a healthy subject reacted to not just 
one but several pathological specimens, Abrams next began to conceive 
of an instrument which might differentiate between the wavelengths of 
all specifically diseased tissues. After months of research, he worked out 
what he called a “reflexophone,” an instrument very much like the 
rheostat—a continuously variable electrical resistor used to regulate cur¬ 
rent—that could emit sounds varying in pitch and thus obviate the 
necessity of having to tap a specific point on a body. 

Different diseases could now be read from the dial: 55 for a syphilitic 
specimen, 58 for sarcomatous tissue, and so on. Abrams asked his assis¬ 
tant to mix up the specimens and found he could infallibly select or 
“diagnose,” by checking the readings on his indicator. 

Abrams’ developments to this point ran not only decades ahead of, 
but directly counter to, the prevailing medical philosophy of his day. His 
statement that “as physicians we dare not stand aloof from the progress 
made in physical science and segregate the human entity from other 
entities of the physical universe” was as incomprehensible to most of his 
medical colleagues as were the later pronouncements of Lakhovsky and 

An even more fantastic revelation came when Abrams found he could 
diagnose the ills of the human body with his instrument from a single 
drop of the body’s blood. Furthermore, by apparently inducting the 


effect from one reflexophone to another which contained three rheostats 
calibrated in units of 10,1 and 1/25, he was able to determine not only 

from what disease a person was suffering but to what stage it had 

Even more fantastic, Abrams found that if a woman was afflicted with 
a breast cancer, he could determine from her blood spot alone in which 
breast the cancer was located, merely by having a healthy percussed 
subject point with his fingertips to his own breasts. In exactly the same 
way, Abrams could reveal the exact site of tubercular or any other 
diseased condition whether focused in the lungs, bowel, bladder, one of 
the vertebrae; in fact, wherever in the body. 

One day while Abrams was demonstrating to a class the reaction 
induced by the blood of a malarial patient, he suddenly turned and said. 
Well, there are upwards of forty of you physicians present, and proba¬ 
bly all of you would prescribe quinine to a patient suffering from this 
disease, but can any one of you offer any scientific reason for so doing?” 
There being no reply, Abrams took out a few grains of sulfate of quinine 
and put them where the blood drop had been in the device. It produced 
exactly the same percussion note as malaria. He then placed the malarial 
material in the container together with a grain or so of quinine wrapped 
in tissue paper. Now the percussion which had produced a dull sound 
indicating malaria gave a resonant sound. To his amazed class Abrams 

frui. ivivyniu HIV/ 

uwl iduiduuns emitted oy quinine 

exactly canceled those from malarial molecules, that the effect on ma¬ 
laria of quinine was due to an unsuspected electrical law which should 
become the subject of intensive research. Various other known antidotes 
behaved similarly—mercury against syphilis, to cite but one example. 

Abrams knew that if he could devise a wave-emitting instrument, 
similar to a wireless broadcasting station, which could alter the character 
of the waves transmitted by malarial or syphilitic tissue, he might cancel 
them out as effectively as did quinine or mercury. 

Though at first he believed “this was beyond the wit of man,” he 
eventually built an “oscilloclast” with the help of a friend, Samuel O. 
Hoffman, a distinguished radio research engineer who had achieved 
fame in World War I by devising a unique method for detecting Ger- 

Radionic Pesticides 321 

man zeppelins approaching the U.S. coast even at a great distance. This 
oscilloclast or “wave breaker" could emit specific waves capable of cur¬ 
ing human afflictions by apparently altering or canceling out radiations 
emitted by various diseases. By 1919 Abrams began teaching its use to 
physicians, who, because neither they nor Abrams could exactly explain 
how it effected cures, regarded it as nothing short of miraculous. 

In 1922, Abrams reported in the Physico-Clinical Journal that for the 
first time he had effected over, telephone wires the diagnosis of a patient 
miles away from his office, using nothing more than a drop of blood from 
the patient and analysis of its vibratory rates by his instruments. This 
somewhat eerie claim finally aroused the ire of the AMA, which pub¬ 
lished a defamatory article impugning Abrams in its journal as a quack, 
an article which was parroted in England in the British Medical Journal 
This caused Sir James Barr, past president of the British Medical Associ¬ 
ation, who had been successfully using Abrams' methods in his own 
practice, to write in reply: “You very seldom quote from the Journal of 
the American Medical Association and one might have expected that 
when you did you would have chosen a more serious subject than an 
ignorant tirade against an eminent medical man, against, in my opinion, 
the greatest genius in the medical profession." Barr concluded that one 
day “medical editors and medical men will begin to perceive that there 
was more to Abrams' vibrations than was dreamt of in their philosophy.” 

Abrams' greatest discoveries were that all matter is radioactive and 
that the generated waves can be picked up across space by using human 
reflexes as detectors; also, that in many conditions of disease dull patches 
are consistently found at specific spots on afflicted patients’ bodies, 

When Abrams died in 1924, the vilification against him continued 
in the United States in eighteen separate and consecutive issues or 
Scientific American. One of the worst insinuations was that the 
“Abrams box" had been devised for no other purpose than to make a 
financial killing by selling it to naive physicians and an unsuspecting 
public. No one noted that Abrams, a millionaire in his own right, had 
written to Upton Sinclair, one of his American defenders, that he would 
donate his devices to, and work unremunerated for, any institute which 
would develop the “Abrams box" in the interests of humanity. 


The sanctions against Abrams and his work scared off all but a small 
minority of American doctors, most of whom were independent-minded 
-chiropractors or, as they like to be called, “drugless physicians.” 

But a generation after Abrams' death one of these, living in the San 
Francisco Bay area, was visited by Curtis P. Upton, a Princeton-trained 
civil engineer whose father was a partner of Thomas Alva Edison. 
Upton's engineering mind led him to wonder whether the strange de¬ 
vice used to cure human affliction might not be applied to pest control 
for agriculture. In the summer of 1951 he and his Princeton classmate 
William J. Knuth, an electronics expert from Corpus Christi, Texas, 
drove into the cotton fields of the thirty-thousand-acre Cortaro-Marana 
tract near Tucson, Arizona. Together they unloaded from the back of 
their truck a mysterious boxlike instrument about the size of a portable 
radio, complete with dials and a stick antenna. Only this time they went 
one better than Simoneton and Mclnnes. They would attempt to affect 
the field not directly but through the medium of photographs. 

An aerial photograph of the field was placed on a “collector plate" 
attached to the base of the instrument, together with a reagent known 
to be poisonous to cotton pests. The dials were set in a specific manner. 
The object of the exercise was to clear the field of pests without recourse 
to chemical insecticides. The theory behind the system—as “way out” 
as anything so far reported on the nature of plants—held that the 
molecular and atomic makeup of the emulsion on the photograph would 
be resonating at the identical frequencies of the objects they represented 
pictorially. Though the American engineers did not know it, the same 
discovery had been made by Bovis in the 1930s. By affecting the photo¬ 
graph with a reagent known to be poisonous to cotton pests the Ameri¬ 
cans believed the cotton plants »n the field could be immunized against 
the pests, Because the amount of poisonous reagent used was infinitesi¬ 
mal compared to the number of acres photographed, the reagent was 
thought to act in the same way that trace dosages of dilution function 
l n Homeopathic Medicine. 

Homeopathy is a method of treatment founded by Christian Samuel 
Hahnemann, a physician of note bom in Meissen in Saxony in 1755. 
Hahnemann, who was also a chemist, a linguist, a translator of medical 

Radionic Pesticides 323 



works, and the author of a comprehensive apothecaries' lexicon, got 
himself into serious trouble with the then equivalent of the FDA by his 
discovery that small doses of what can cause the symptoms of a disease 
in human beings can also cure them. The original discovery was made 
by chance when the Countess of Cinchon, wife of the Spanish Viceroy 
to Peru, was relieved of malaria with an infusion of bark from a local 
tree which produced symptoms in her identical with those of malaria. 
Thereafter known as "cinchon bark,” the remedy was sold by monks in 
Spain to the rich for its weight in gold and given to the poor for nothing. 

Spurred by this novel approach to medicine, Hahnemann made a 
methodical search for plants, herbs, barks, or any substance, including 
snake venom, which could produce symptoms similar to those of a 
known disease, and by administering them in small doses produced some 
near miracle cures. He found belladonna to be a remedy against scarlet 
fever, pulsatilla against measles, and gelsemium against influenza. Quite 
as extraordinary as Hahnemann’s cures was his next discovery, that the 
more he diluted a remedy the more potent and effective it became, even 
if diluted to an infinitesimal one million to one. Rudolf Hauschka 
explains the phenomenon by suggesting that if matter is a condensation 
or a crystallization of cosmic forces, these forces would naturally revert 
to being more powerful as they were liberated from their material casing 
like jinns from a bottle. 

A careful chemist, Hahnemann would start by diluting the tincture 
of some bark, root, resin, seed, or gum with ninety-nine parts of pure 
alcohol. This would give him what he called a one-centesimal potency. 
He would then dilute one part of this liquid into ninety-nine parts of 
a diluent. The third time round he would have a tincture that was only 
one millionth part of the diluent. The result, for some even to him 
mysterious reason, was far more potent. Hauschka explains part of 
Hahnemann’s secret as being in the rhythmic, mathematical fashion in 
which he shook his dilutions, rhythm having the same effect it has on 
humans of freeing the spirit from the clutches of the body. 

But the authorities made short shrift of Hahnemann. Already in bad 
odor with his fellow physicians because he considered bleeding and 
cupping his patients to be a crime, Hahnemann next incurred the wrath 


^his fellow apothecaries when they saw the threat to their profits from 
{|ie sale of drugs in such minute quantities. The moment Hahnemann’s 
discovery was given to the public in the journal of Goethe’s personal 
physician, Dr. Hufeland, the Guild of Apothecaries (forerunners of 
t6day s pharmacists and the "detail men” who each year press hundreds 
ofnew pills on doctors) saw to it that Hahnemann was brought before 
a'court, found guilty, forbidden to dispense medicine, and compelled to 
leave town. 

In Tucson in 1951, it would have been hard to find a scientist who 
would bet the small change in his pocket that Upton and Knuth’s 
protective process could offer them any safeguards against marauding 
pests. Yet the two engineers pursued their course, repeating the process 
\rith aerial photographs covering the entire four thousand acres owned 
by the Cortaro Management Company, one of Arizona's biggest cotton 
growers. The company executives were gambling that, if the twelve 
varieties of pests that normally attacked their million-dollar crop could 
be kept at bay with so simple a device, they could save up to $30,000 
a year in operating costs by eliminating the use of insecticide sprays, 

> In the fall, the Tucson Weekend-Reporter ran an illustrated two-page 
spread headlined: "Million Dollar Gamble Pays Off for Cotton Man.” 
Hie article stated that a “Buck Rogers type of electronic pest control” 
had allowed Cortaro to achieve an almost 25 percent increase in per-acre 
yield of cotton over the state average. W. S. Nichols, president of the 
Cortaro Management Company, stated in an affidavit that the treated 
cotton also seemed to have approximately 20 percent more seed: “This 
may possibly be the result of not destroying the bees, upon which the 
wdionic process seems to have no effect.” Nichols further remarked that 
his hoe hand$ had noted an almost complete absence of snakes in the 
areas subjected to the strange treatment. 

On the East Coast of the United States, one of Upton’s Princeton 
classmates, Howard Armstrong, who had become an industrial chemist 
with many inventions to his credit, decided to try his friend’s method 
m Pennsylvania. After taking an aerial photograph of a cornfield under 
attack by Japanese beetles, he cut one corner off the photo with a pair 

scissors and laid the remainder together with a small amount of 

Radionic Pesticides 325 

rotenone, a beetle poison, extracted from the roots of a woody Asian vine 
which the Japanese call “roten,” on the collector plate of one of Upton's 
radionic devices. 

After several five- to ten-minute treatments with the machine’s dials 
set to specific readings, a meticulous count of beetles revealed that 
80-90 percent of them had died or disappeared from the corn plants 
treated through the photo. The untreated plants in the corner cut away 
from the photo remained 100 percent infested. 

After witnessing this experiment, B. A. Rockwell, director of research 
for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau Cooperative Association in Harris¬ 
burg, wrote: “To control insect pests at a distance of thirty miles with 
no danger to man, plants or animals would perhaps be an accomplish¬ 
ment heretofore unrivaled in the scientific control of insects injurious 
to vegetation. To an individual with 19 years experience in the research 
field this feat appeared unreal, impossible, fantastic, and crazy. Yet 
careful counts by the writer of the treated corn plants and untreated 
corn plants indicated definitely that the kill ratio was 10 to 1 in favor 
of the treated plants.” 

Upton, Knuth, and Armstrong combined their talents and the first 
letters of their names to form UKACO, Inc. The new company’s goal 
was to relieve farmers of unwanted pests by the new method, as scientifi¬ 
cally inexplicable as it was simple and inexpensive. The company re¬ 
ceived the backing of General Henry M. Gross, one of Harrisburg’s most 
distinguished citizens, head of the Selective Service Board for the State 
of Pennsylvania. 

In the.West, Upton and Knuth contracted with forty-four artichoke 
growers to treat their crop against plume moths. The contracts were 
written on the basis of “no control—no pay.” All the growers paid the 
service charge of one dollar an acre, a tiny fraction of the costs or 
conventional spraying. In Pennsylvania Rockwell stated: “Since farmers 
usually do not pay for a service unless there is value received, this is the 
best testimonial for the UKACO process which has come to my atten¬ 

Convinced that a radical new development for controlling pests was 
in the offing, Rockwell arranged contracts with his fellow farmers to run 


a long series of experiments under his supervision. In 1949 at the 

cooperatives Camp Potato” in Potter County, and at the Fairview 

farmstead in Easton, potato crops treated by the UKACO process 

yielded 30 percent more than those fields sprayed seven times with 

conventional insecticides, the saving in chemicals also greatly adding to 
the value of the crop. 

The following year the Farm Bureau's research division operatives 
having learned to operate the UKACO equipment themselves, got 
yields 22 percent greater than in the insecticide-treated fields. In tests 
at Hershey Estates Farm No. 40, and the bureau’s own poultry farm, 
a pair of cornfields showed, by actual count of cornstalks, 65 percent 
control of second-brood European corn borer, an efficiency never ap¬ 
proached with any other treatment. 

In Eatonville, Florida, the director of agriculture for the Hungerford 

School for Boys, a graduate in agriculture from Tallahassee University, 

also successfully used the UKACO method to eliminate pestilent worms 

from the school s cabbage patch and flea beetles from its turnip plants. 

At this point, the new insecticideless method of treating crops piqued 

the curiosity of the United States Department of Agriculture’s research 

station at Beltsville, Maryland, one of whose officials, Dr. Truman Hien- 

ton, called General Gross to say that he would like to find out exactly 

how UKACO was achieving its results. When Hienton and iwo of his 

Ph.D. colleagues arrived in Harrisburg, they were informed that the 

principle behind the machine seemed somehow to be related to that of 

radio broadcasting. But when UKACO’s Howard Armstrong was asked 

at what wavelength he was broadcasting his treatments, he could only 

say he did not know. The mystified scientists shook their heads dubiously 
and returned to Beltsville. 

In the summer of 1951 Armstrong traveled through the Cumberland 
a ey treating corn and anything else the farmers wanted him to treat. 
He was so successful that when insecticide salesmen visited the farms 
under treatment they were informed their products were no longer 
needed. The farmers themselves operated many of the treating devices 
*hich were left by Armstrong on their farms. This evidently raised the 
nackles of the American insecticide industry, which responded that 

Radionic Pesticides 327 

winter to UKACO’s new technology in the same way that the British 
fertilizer industry had to Sir Albert Howard's recommendations. 
Agricultural Chemicals, the industry’s mouthpiece, printed an article in 
its January, 1952, issue, panning the UKACO process as fraudulent. 
When asked about the article’s claim that his test results could not be 
duplicated by “disinterested agencies,” the Pennsylvania farm bureau’s 
Rockwell replied: “I've studied enough science to know a dead Japanese 
beetle when I see one.” 

In March of 1952, fifty York County agricultural leaders assembled, 
with a skeptical glint in their eyes, to hear R. M. Benjamin, executive 
secretary of the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau, tell them during a two-hour 
meeting how they could kill or chase away various insect pests by what 
seemed to be remote electronic control. Benjamin supplied testimonials 
to back up his story, one of them signed by the Secretary of Agriculture 
for Pennsylvania, Miles Horst, who reported highly effective results on 
a rose-of-Sharon bush in his garden which had been infested by Japanese 
beetles. Though many in the audience at first heckled Benjamin, and 
one jeeringly remarked that perhaps the cornfields should be injected 
with “a dose of faith,” before the end of the meeting all present became 
convinced that the new methods should be given a trial the following 

When the York Dispatch , which had printed an account of the 
meeting, requested an opinion on the UKACO process from the U S. 
Department of Agriculture in Washington, it was surprised to learn that 
the department put no faith in the process. F. C. Bishopp, assistant chief 
of the Agricultural Research Administration’s Bureau of Entomology 
and Plant Quarantine, claimed in a letter that one of the bureau’s field 
men had observed the experiments run by Knuth and Upton in the 
Southwest and found that the insects were not controlled. Bishopp 
added that “though we have not had an opportunity to carefully exam¬ 
ine the device, or conduct any properly designed tests of it... a number 
of adverse reports on tests set up by the company have also reached us. 
He cited an article in the Arizona Farmer headlined “Electronic De- 
Bugger Flops—Promoter of Magic Black Box Leaves Texas Panhandle 
When Cotton Farmers Find It Didn’t Work.” 


A week later, Bishopp, realizing that tests planned for the summer of 
,1952 were to proceed as scheduled and, evidently feeling that he had 
not made his point convincingly, wrote a second letter to the York 
Dispatch, in which he stated in part: “From our limited knowledge of 
the use of radiation in control of insects we frankly feel that the claims 
of this company are exaggerated. The question naturally arises as to why 
the company should proceed with large-scale tests without having 
competent authorities evaluate the method. We are anxious that un¬ 
sound methods not be permitted to divert the farmer’s attention, at this 
critical time, from recognized sound insect control practices.” Bishopp’s 
aim was evidently to use his authoritative position to prejudge and 
condemn a process of which he admitted he had no firsthand knowledge, 

Rockwell never denied that the radionic process was not always suc¬ 
cessful. He himself stated plainly to the newspaper that certain tests 
could fail because of interference from standing irrigation pipes, high- 
tension wires, leaky transformers, wire fences, radar, plant pots, and 
various soil conditions, and added that, because the patents for UKACO 
devices had not yet been granted, he was not at liberty to turn one over 
to the Beltsville research center. 

The same spring, the three UKACO partners and General Gross 
organized a nonprofit foundation to carry on their pest-control work. 

\ Because of the homeopathic quality of the reagents used, the nonprofit 
entity was called the Horneotronic Foundation, at the suggestion of Dr. 

: ^William J. Hale, former chief of research in organic chemistry for the 
Dow Chemical Corporation. 

In the meantime, despite Bishopp’s statements, the USDA’s Dr. 
Hienton again called General Gross to say that he had heard extremely 
favorable reports on Armstrong’s work in the Cumberland Valley the 
previous year and wondered what his Beltsville agricultural research 
station could do to assist UKACO’s further efforts. Gross suggested that 
the government research body send five representatives to work all, 
summer with five UKACO operatives, each one of whom was to treat 
fields in a separate Pennsylvania county. By constant observation of the 
method of treatment and results obtained, they should be able to deter¬ 
mine firsthand whether the UKACO work was all that it claimed to be. 

Radionic Pesticides 329 

Instead of accepting Gross's offer, Hienton decided to commission a 
USDA field worker in New Jersey, Dr. E. W. Seigler, and an assistant 
to oversee the UKACO operations on a sporadic basis. 

During the 1952 growing season field corn was treated on 1,420 acres 
belonging to 61 farmers on 81 separate holdings in five counties; 78,360 
individual corn stalks were examined. Officers of the new Homeotronic 
Foundation worked with several Pennsylvania Farm Bureau officials and 
one from the Farm Bureau Association of the State of Ohio. 

The USDA officials finally put in an appearance on August 7. Dr. 
Seigler randomly selected one cornfield in York County owned by the 
Bittinger Cannery and checked the treated corn against the untreated. 
In four rows totaling 400 plants he found 346 silks damaged by beetles 
in the untreated section but only 6 5 silks damaged in the treated section. 
In another field, owned by the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau poultry farm 
cooperative, results were 339 and 64. Checks in other areas also testified 
to the success of the new methods, with the exception of one field where 
the process inexplicably did not seem to work. Overall results indicated 
that 92 percent success in the control of Japanese beetles, and 58 
percent for corn borers was achieved. 

The UKACO team was happy that the results had now been checked 
by the United States agricultural authorities. But the USDA's Dr. Sei¬ 
gler asked UKACO to refrain from publishing any results in the Pennsyl¬ 
vania Farm Bureau Journal until Beltsville had had time to issue their 
own report. When, after a number of weeks, no report was forthcoming 
from the USDA research station. General Gross called Beltsville to ask 
for thirty copies. Instead of mailing them, Bishopp sent a curt letter to 
Rockwell stating that, since no count had been made before the treat¬ 
ment had begun, the reports sent back from Pennsylvania by his own 
research men were valueless. 

As the Pennsylvanians knew that Beltsville was well aware that the 
pictures had been taken and treatment started long before there was any 
appearance of either corn ears or Japanese beetles, they found the 
attitude of the USDA surprising. It seemed that the USDA was intent 
on killing the UKACO process in the bud. When several very large 
prospective customers called Beltsville for an opinion about it, they were 


.informed that the whole thing was a fake that had produced no results 

Armstrong next learned from the West Coast that representatives of 
insecticide companies in concert with USDA employees had been visit¬ 
ing farmers who used the UKACO process and telling them it was an 
outright fraud. The UKACO team came to the conclusion that Belts- 
ville was directly and intentionally preventing them from proceeding 
with their work and that lobbyists of the insecticide industry in Wash¬ 
ington were putting extreme pressure on the government to stamp out 
the new pest-control methods which were so dangerously threatening to 
put them out of business. So effective was the campaign that UKACO 
;had difficulty soliciting new clients among farmers, who were becoming 

convinced by an army of USDA agents that there was nothing to the 
Upton-Knuth-Armstrong treatments. 

w Meanwhile Upton, whose patent application had been rejected for 
“lack of convincing evidence in the record from qualified experts with 
scientific backgrounds," submitted a twenty-two-page addendum to sup¬ 
port his claim. The addendum pleaded that “it is difficult to precisely 
define the nature and mechanism of the novel methods" and postulated 
that the process comprehends the study and use of certain fundamental 
energy sources capable of affecting molecules, atoms and electrons 
through their characteristic harmonic potency resonance frequencies in 
which every particle of matter exhibits its own characteristic frequency 
under a controlled polarity in a magnetic field of motion." 

; In support of their allegations, the inventors cited the work of Dr. 
iEdward Purcell, co-winner with Dr. Felix Bloch of a 1952 Nobel Prize 
in physics, who published an article in the November 15 issue of Science 
News Letter on the characteristic resonant frequency of elements when 
resonated in selected magnetic fields, and a report on the work of Dr. 
Bloch, wherein he succeeded, by a process he designated “nuclear induc¬ 
tion," in turning atomic particles into what, in effect, were infinitesimal 
radio transmitters, whose broadcasts, if highly amplified, could be de¬ 
tected in loudspeakers. There was little doubt in Upton's mind that his 
radiotonic treatment,” as he called it, made use of the type of energy 
involved in the Bloch study, which, as Upton wrote, had “not heretofore 

Radionic Pesticides 331 

been recognized by science—particularly in itsipplications to molecular 
structures of the complex nature of plant am animal life." 

Holding that the work of electronic expets and the detection of 
potentials by means of delicate apparatus hd long since proven the 
existence and the measurability of various ampltudes of electrical poten¬ 
tials in living creatures, Upton referred to the writings of Drs. George 
Washington Crile and Harold Saxton Burr. 

When all this failed to get the patent accepted, General Gross 
brought into play his contacts on the boardsof some of the nation’s 
largest industrial companies and was able to intoduce the process to the 
consideration of important scientists in the U.S Government, including 
Vannevar Bush, science adviser to President Bsenhower. When Gross 
explained to therti UKACO’s accomplishment&nd said they were based 
on the idea that every particle has its own geneic frequency, as Dr. Crile 
had so stoutly maintained, the scientists responded heatedly that the 
UKACO-obtained results were impossible. 

Though Gross politely suggested that the scientists come to Harris¬ 
burg and talk with Rockwell and the farmer: whose crops had been 
“radiotonically” protected and see the results or themselves, they de¬ 
clined his invitation. Gross had no more succes; with the director of the 
Carnegie Institution in Washington, who Hatlytold him that there was 
nothing in the science of electronics to suggest tiat the UKACO process 
could work. 

Dr. Willard F. Libby, who devised the carbn-14 dating technique, 
and who was soon to win the Nobel Prize in hemistry, after hearing 
Gross out, discouragingly yet perhaps accurate! told him that it would 
take more than a million dollars to research tie “box.” 

What also may have alarmed the governmeit was the idea that if a 
host of insects could be affected, even killed, singly by radiating a poison 
at them via a picture of the plants which they ''ere attacking, then the 
same technique could be militarily applied to oncentrations of troops 
or even the populations of whole cities in wartme. All this discourage- 
ment, added to the studied and seemingly sucessful efforts of govern- 
mental and industrial moguls to wean farmers iway from the new ap¬ 
proach to insect control, finally forced UKACO to close its doors. But 
:he story of what came to be called “radionics’ was only beginning 


Th.rty years before the demise of the UKACO enterprise, a yorng 
engmeer for the Kansas City Power and Light Company, V. Caen 
Hieronymus, who was one of the first to be granted an amateur radio 
^erator s hcense before World War I, was asked by one of his neijh- 
bore a Dr, Planck, to machine various parts for some instrumental Li 
which reqmred prec,se components, such as strips of silver plate, cut to 
«act proportions down to the millimeter, and carefully wound coil 
Beyond refernng to a mysterious medical genius in San Francisco wi h 
whom he had Studied fantastic new techniques to treat disease, Plamk 
i no enlighten his young machinist as to the purpose of the new 
instruments he was helping to build. It was only after Planck died ard 
wife asked Hieronymus to come to the house to look over a workroom 
fun of strange equipment and, because she had no use for it selert 

Ltomen^heTdt’ H “ :r0nymi,s leamed real purpose of the 

sm^onwasALcrttbrs ^ ^ ^ ““ M “ ° f ^ U ” k "™ 

Meanwhile a vivacious young Los Angeles chiropractor, Dr, Rut, 
sMn^r ,"f ng refinements Abrams’ devices. Drown’s moi 
be u ed to LT iP S r ment r ^ development of 3 camera which could 

fcousands of miles from her office. Even more startling, she could take 
Pictures in cross-section,” which cannot be done with X-rays. Thoug 
she mceived a British patent for this twenty-first-century apparatus Dr 
Drown s claim was relegated by FDA authorities to the realm of sconce 

t on and her equipment was confiscated in the early 1940s To make 

sure that her plight was suitably publicized the same aufhn v 4 . 
it thaf ri=nnrt*ro f t 'i ’ cne same authorities saw to 

reporters from Life magazine were on the scene. After the Life 

PreSen ‘ ed Her " 3 Charlat “’ Dr ’ Ruth died of g " _ n 

unrecognized genius. 5 

While Drown was working in California, still another of Abrams’ 

ShTan 3 ?T g ° d0C ‘ 0r ’ G ' W Wiggekworth . with the help of his 
as an 0 ; t r h eC f °HK T7 r h0 at first Iooked “P° n the oscilloclast 

fc " A t"" f l - ^ s 

variable condensers, a change which he found vastly improved the tun- 

Padionic Pesticides 333 

ing. Wiggelsworth christened his new device a “pathoclast” or disease 
breaker, the users of which banded together into a Pathometric Associa¬ 

In the 1930s Glen Wills, an Arkansas chiropractor, successful busi¬ 
nessman, and promoter, who pioneered the method of raising broiling 
chickens in cages or “batteries,” heard Hieronymus lecture on electronic 
theory before the Pathometric Association. Wills bought out Wiggel- 
sworth’s Pathometric Association and asked Hieronymus if he could 
build a modified and more complex version of the pathoclast. 

Hieronymus had earlier made a detailed study of his own of strange 
energies emitted, not from healthy or diseased tissues, but from metals. 
Working on his theory, he took sterling-silver objects, such as broken 
spoons, pepper-and-salt shakers, and anything else he could steal from 
his wife, and buried them in the Kansas prairie. 

Knowing the location of the hidden silver, Hieronymus then “worked 
backward,” as he says, trying to find the emanations from it. To his 
surprise, he discovered that every so often he could find no energy 
emanating from the silver, and wondered if someone might have dug 
up his hoard. A few hours later the energy would be radiating as strongly 
as ever. 

Hieronymus’ eclectic mind next wondered whether the energy was 
undetectable at given times because it was radiating not upward out of 
the earth but downward toward the earth’s center. To find out, he took 
an eight-foot copper-clad steel ground rod and sledge-hammered it at an 
angle into the ground so that it would extend below the silver hoard. 
When the rod was at the level of the silver or below it, his device, to 
which the rod was attached, indicated a surge of energy; when he pulled 
the rod some distance above the silver, no energy was registered. 

By repeatedly taking measurements over weeks, Hieronymus found 
that the energy from the silver seemed to be diverted downward for a 
few hours every two and a half days. Checking in an almanac he discov¬ 
ered that the cycle of diversions in some ways correlated with phases of 
the moon. What Pfeiffer had discovered about lunar influence with 
respect to plants seemed also to be applicable to metals. 

Further work with buried metal also convinced Hieronymus that 


these energies were, like those in Abrams' experiments, strongly in¬ 
fluenced by magnetic attraction. Thus, at least two twentieth-century 
researchers, one a medical man, like Mesmer, the other a laboratory 
researcher, like Reichenbach, appeared to have rediscovered the link 

between mineral magnetism on the one hand and “animal magnetism” 
on the other. 

Hieronymus suspected that the unknown energy emitted from metals 
might be somehow linked to sunlight; since it could be transmitted over 
wires, it might have an effect on the growth of plants. 

To find out, Hieronymus placed some aluminum-lined boxes in the 

pitch-dark cellar of his Kansas City house. Some boxes he grounded to 

a water pipe and connected by separate copper wires to metal plates on 

die outside of the house exposed to full sunlight. Other boxes were left 

unconnected. In all of them Hieronymus planted seed grain. In the 

connected boxes the seeds grew into sturdy green plants. The seeds in 

the unconnected boxes had no trace of green and were anemic and 

This brought Hieronymus to the revolutionary conclusion that what¬ 
ever caused the development of chlorophyll in plants could not be 
sunlight itself but something associated with it, which, unlike light, was 
transmittable over wires. He had no idea at what frequency this energy 

might be located on the electromagnetic spectrum, or even if it was 
related to it. 

As Hieronymus continued to build instruments for the doctors, and 
to experiment with them, he grew more and more convinced that the 
energy being modulated by the devices had little to do with electromag¬ 
netism. This notion became a certainty when he found the device itself 
was short-circuited if bathed in light rays from the sun just as electrical 
circuits in a radio are shorted by being plunged into a bath of water. 

Hieronymus next designed a special analyzer, first with lenses, finally 
with a prism, by means of which he could identify, from the radiations 
fiey emitted, many of the elements on Mendeleyev’s periodic chart. He 
found that the energy, when refracted through a prism, behaved in the 
«»me manner as light, except that the angles of refraction were much 
Ri0re ac ute, and that the energy from various elements came through 

Radionic Pesticides 335 

at angles of refraction in the same order as the contents of their nuclei. 
His ability to detect a substance from its radiation alone convinced 
Hieronymus that disease was destroyed by the Abrams device and its 
descendants “through a radiative attack on the binding energy which 

holds molecular structures together.” 

The frequency of emanation, or angle of refraction, is in exact propor¬ 
tion to the number of particles in the nucleus of an element, says 
Hieronymus. The range of frequencies or angles of refraction from 
complex substances can thus be used to disclose what they contain. The 
energy emitted does not, like electromagnetic energy, attenuate in¬ 
versely as the square of the distance from its source. It radiates out only 
a certain distance depending on the object from which it is emitted, on 
the direction it takes, and even on the time of day of its measurement. 
Something varies the amount of radiation emitted in the same way that 
fog, smoke or other materials altering the density of the air in our 
atmosphere vary the intensity of light from whatever source. 

Trying to describe this radiation Hieronymus first came up with the 
cumbersome explanation: “Energy obeying some of the laws of elec¬ 
tricity but not all of them, and some of the laws of optics , but not all 
of them.” To obviate the repetition he finally coined the term “eloptic 

energy. ” 

This energy, he concluded, though independent of, was somehow 
affiliated with, electromagnetic energy. Because of the difference, 
Hieronymus inferred that their spectra of frequencies were necessarily 
related. He decided to refer to eloptic energy in all its wavelengths as 
a fine medium which, as he wrote, “might be the same as that which 
used to be described by electronic engineers and physicists as 'the ether’ 
put in action at higher harmonics than so far experienced.” 

In the early 1940s Hieronymus applied for a patent. The invention 
to which he put claim was basically a method and an apparatus relating 
to the art of detecting the presence of, and measuring the intensity or 
quantity of, any known element of material matter, singly or in combina- 
tion, whether in solid, fluid or gaseous form.” For those who might rush 
to duplicate his idea, there was an important qualification in the applies 
tion which stated that the “apparatus preferably relies upon the element 
of touch and, therefore , the skill of the operator. ” 


f -1 : f Th* s was because the operator had to stroke a detector which, sub¬ 
stituting for the abdomen of Abrams’ subject, was, in the abstruse 
language required by the patent office: “preferably an electrical conduc¬ 
tor coated with a material having such characteristics that under influ- 
| ence of energy flowing through the conducting portion, the coating will 
| change its surface tension or viscosity, or in some manner give evidence 
of the presence of the energy flowing through the conducting portion 
by producing a greater drag or resistance to the movement of any part 
of the body of the operators thereover, such as the hand or fingers.” 

What actually happened at the detector, to increase and decrease its 
drag at the touch of the operator, was not understood, but, as the text 
I ^ mel y explained, “the apparatus functions . . . and, therefore, a posi¬ 
tively acting analyzer for atomic radiations is produced even though the 
principle upon which it is based is not fully known.” 

• he was invited in 1946, less than a year after Hiroshima and 

Nagasaki had been blasted, to describe his new process over Kansas 
Gity s radio station WHAM, Hieronymus paid full tribute to Abrams. 
“About twenty years ago a discovery was made by a California man,” 
he said, that was so hard to believe and more especially by those who 
did not wish to believe it, that the world was set back by their disbelief 
for many years. There were a few of those following along who took the 
Original idea to the point where today it is as important, in fact, more 
important to mankind than the atomic bomb because the latter means 
destruction of humanity and the other idea means the lengthening of 
Kfe and the alleviation of disease.” 

^ The bacteriologist Otto Rahn, whose book on radiation from living 
things had so puzzled his colleagues ten years before, after examining 
Hieronymus’ process and experiments, wrote to the inventor: “Since 
tee radiations hoid the secret of life, they also hold the secret of death. 
M present, very few people know about the possibilities, and very few 
snow all the facts. It seems imperative that those few keep their knowl- 
^ge to themselves, and divulge only as much as is necessary to perform 
immediate applications to cure disease. Your discoveries open up 
©eat possibilities, as tremendous as those of the atom bomb, and just 
$e atomic energy, these radiations may be used for the bad as well as 
r the good of humanity.” In the meantime, the Saturday Evening Post 

Radionic Pesticides 33 7 


published a rehash of the more than twenty-year-old Scientific American 
series in a snide article 'The ondrous Box of Dr. Abrams, authored 
by a Robert M. Yoder, who falsely claimed that Abrams had risen to 
“fame and fortune selling a sealed box.” 

Part of the motive for this hatchet job was revealed by Hieronymus 
in his answering letter to the Post’s editor, Ben Hibbs. “This is a 
controversial subject” wrote Hieronymus, “only because it involves the 
pocketbook of a large group of people who might be harmed financially 
should the truth of the present day status of the little black box be made 
generally known to the public. The unfortunate part of the situation at 
the moment is that a large pressure group is still fighting tooth and nail 
to keep the known facts from being presented and I just wonder if the 
article in the Saturday Evening Post wasn't instigated by that group.” 

The letter appeared in a booklet. The Truth about Radionics and 
Some of the Criticism made about it by its Enemies , published by a group 
which, because it applied the new term “Radionics” to the therapies 
being practiced on the basis of Abrams' finding, called itself the Interna¬ 
tional Radionics Association. 

In 1949 Hieronymus was awarded United States patent number 
2,482,773 for the “Detection of Emanations from Materials and Mea¬ 
surement of the Volumes Thereof.” Other patents were later issued in 

the United Kingdom and Canada. 

The story of UKACO and the Homeotronic Foundation is further 
complicated by the fact that, at one point during the work, Hieronymus 
went to Harrisburg to consult with and assist Armstrong and his col¬ 
laborators. Hieronymus told the authors that the device incorporating 
the amplifier which he had built for Wills was used in Pennsylvania with 
almost 100 percent success. However, according to Hieronymus, the 
UKACO group could not understand his notion that a new “eloptic 
energy” might be involved and preferred to proceed on the theory that 
the device worked solely on electromagnetic or electronic principles. 

When they made further adaptations on his device, says Hieronymus, 
they began to get less than perfect results. The lack of a perfect record, 
however, was more than overshadowed in Hieronymus’ eyes by observa¬ 
tions which shook him profoundly. At the Hershey farms, together with 


a UKACO representative he selected three ears of com on each of which 
a com worm was munching. 

Isolating the ears so that the worms could not escape, Hieronymus 
began to treat them with his radionic broadcaster. He states that, after 
three days of treatment for ten minutes per hour round the clock, two 
of the com worms were reduced to mush but the third was still wobblily 
intact. Another twenty-four hours of the same treatment and the stub¬ 
born worm was also mush. All that remained of the others was just “wet 
places” on the corn ears. 

Hieronymus was so stunned by the lethal potential of the tuned 

radiation that he resolved never to reveal everything about the makeup 

of his devices or their operation until he could one day find serious 

researchers of impeccable character to help him elucidate the exact 
potentials of his discoveries. 

Having for years measured the states of the human body and its 
organs radionically, Hieronymus and his wife, Louise, operator of the 

device, decided m 1968 to check the ongoing conditions of the first men 
ever to go on a trip to the moon. 

They ordered photographs of the three astronauts from Washington 

and, after inserting them one at a time in their instrument, claimed they 

were not only able to track and monitor all physiological functions of 

the astronauts from the earth to the moon and back, but to determine 

‘that the transmitting energy could neither be shielded by the metal shell 

** the capsule nor affected by the great distance from Mother Earth or 

er satellite. They said they were also able to measure the effects of high 

G stress on the astronauts during take-off and re-entry as well as the 

^effects of living in a weightless-zero ‘^’’^environment for an ex- 
‘tended period. 

' The Hieronymuses’ most startling claim was the discovery of what 
they term a lethal radiation belt round the moon, which during the 
finding of Apollo 11 apparently extended from an altitude of roughly 
;»xfy-five miles down to approximately fifteen feet above the moon's 
ijJ. e. While the astronauts were traveling through or within this belt, 
Hieronymus noted a drop in the vitality as measured by his wife on the 
wx ” But when two of the astronauts got out of the capsule and 

Radionic Pesticides 339 

climbed down the ladder onto tuna firmd, he says the trends showed 3 
spectacular turnaround. 

In following later flights of the Apollo series, Hieronymus found that 
the lower level of the mysterious lethal atmosphere was as high as two 
miles above the moon’s surface. Hieronymus believes further that its 
altitude may alter depending on a given time period or on its exact 
position above various spots on the moon’s surface, or both, but states 
that extensive observations will be required to confirm this. 

No less interesting was Hieronymus confirmation that the energy he 
was picking up from the spacemen appeared not to be related to any of 
those on the electromagnetic spectrum. When the capsule was on the 
far side of the moon relative to the earth, no radio or other telemetered 
signals could be transmitted back to the Houston base. The astronauts 
were thus out of contact with their earthbound guides. Not so with 
Hieronymus, who says he was able to monitor them during this period 
on his analyzer. On the other hand, when the capsule was on the far side 
of the moon relative to the sun, i.e., in the moon’s shadow, radio signals 
were easily sent to and received from earth, whereas Hieronymus 
analyzer went “dead” and could pick up nothing. This seemed to 
confirm the idea, hit upon by Hieronymus when he was growing plants 
in his cellar, that the energy received by his analyzer was in close 

association, if not carried on, sunlight rays. 

A German-born engineer, Rolf Schaffranke, working as a propulsion 
expert for American corporations contracting with NASA in Huntsville, 
Alabama, who as a young student watched the launching of the first 
man-made rocket, the V-2, from the secret German base at Peene- 
miinde, wrote of Hieronymus’ experiment: “Sounds absolutely crazy. 
Yet it really happened. Numerous observers are firmly convinced that 
the experiment is repeatable. Repeatable anywhere, any time, with as 

many witnesses present as desired.” 

Wondering whether eloptic energy could be carried not only on lig 
rays from our sun but on those from all cosmic bodies including planets, 
Hieronymus took a ten-power telescope from an ordinary navigations 
sextant onto the roof of bis house in Lakemont, Georgia, and fixed it 
so that it could be constantly directed at any spot in the heavens. 




pff. After focusing on Venus, he replaced the telescope’s eyepiece with 
! metal disc penetrated by a hole, and soldered a wire to the edge of the 


" disc to conduct what he believed was eloptic energy down into the house 
to the radionic device operated by his wife. Mrs. Hieronymus began to 
run tests similar to those which had measured the vitality rates of the 
astronauts’ bodily parts and systems so as to see if there was anything 
that gave a similar response on the Venusian surface. Of the thirty-five 
wavelengths received from astronauts’ organs and systems, half seemed 
.to be tunable from Venus, the others not at all. 

Perplexed by these findings, the Hieronymuses were suddenly struck 
that they might be receiving energies from parts, not of animals, but of 
plants. So they began running analyses on the organs of earthly plants 
as if they were human beings. 

Checking three trees, a mango, a willow, and a pine, Hieronymus 
found that while they all had what appeared to be the equivalent of 
lungs, pineal, thymus, and pituitary glands, adrenals, thyroids, stomachs, 
a colon wall, a prostate, ovaries, and a nervous system, there were strange 
differences among them. The mango alone, for instance, seemed to have 
something akin to a lymphatic system, but, unlike both the willow and 
the pine, no duodenum or spleen. 

Hieronymus next checked Bermuda grass, which he knew does not 
/ propagate by seeding itself but extends endlessly underground. Sure 
enough, no sex organs could be detected for the grass according to his 
readings, though a weed registered ovaries even when he had removed 
; its seeds. Strangely, the Bermuda grass seemed to have the analog of an 

£■' The readings from Venus set on the tunings for each organ or system, 
tor analog thereof, clearly indicated some structure on Venus similar to 
tthat of earthly plants. Hieronymus concludes that there may well be a 
form of Venusian plant life, though he has no idea what kind, or why 
ithe vitality of its organs seems to be more than twice that of the earth 
iplants he has tested; nor has he any idea whether such “plants” may have 
no more than what occultists call etheric or astral bodies. 

* By the summer of 1973, as a result of the publication of a series of 
articles about him and his work in U.S. magazines devoted to the 

Radionic Pesticides 341 

unexplained, Hieronymus began to attract wider interest; his correspon¬ 
dence mushroomed with letters and calls asking for further information. 

Still keenly aware of Rahn’s post-Hiroshima warning, and remember¬ 
ing with awe the com borers reduced to no more than “wet spots,” 
Hieronymus is still leery of revealing all he knows. As he stated to the 
authors: “While we are not intending to hold back scientific investiga¬ 
tion, we are not going to broadcast complete information on our tech¬ 
nology to the general public so that people can play around with it 
irresponsibly any more than we would advocate giving dynamite and 
matches to small children. If a group of responsible people will help us 
to run a proper and broad investigation of eloptic energy for the good 
of mankind, I will be glad to cooperate and tell them all I know.” 




About two decades before UKACO’s efforts to help the farmers of 
Pennsylvania were put to rout by the chemical manufacturers and the 
USQA, a book appeared in the United Kingdom called The Chain of 
life by the British surgeon Guyon Richards, who had built up wide 
Jtperience in medical problems as physician in charge of an entire 
'“Strict for the Indian medical service. 

He was stimulated by the theories of a colleague. Captain Sandes, who 
®fooduced him to the little-known benefits of ionization and its remark- 
£ effects on the treatment of disease* a branch of science later devel- 
* n Germany and more particularly in the USSR, but almost wholly 

neglected in other countries. Richards became, as he put it, “electrically- 
minded,” and proceeded to make detailed galvanometric studies of 
plants and people in health and disease, Of Abrams,Richards said it was 
a pity that the very invention of the oscilloclast had, because its curative 
properties could not be exactly explained, obscured from the medical 
profession the important issues which Abrams had raised. 

Richards’ book restimulated interest in radionics among a small cote¬ 
rie of imaginative British doctors who wanted to experiment with the 
new healing process. Looking for an engineer who could help them build 
the strange new equipment, they sought out an “English Hieronymus” 
and found him in the person of an Oxonian, George De La Warr, a 
psychically-gifted civil engineer. 

Having built a series of instruments covered in black leather, which 
came to be known as “black boxes,” about a year following the demise 
of UKACO, the work of which they had no inkling, De La Warr and 
his osteopath wife, Marjorie, found that they could affect the growth of 
diseased or undernourished plants by focusing “radionic” energy straight 
at them through a lens system, thus substantiating the claim of Hierony¬ 
mus, of whom they were also unaware, that it was optically retractable. 
Like the UKACO partners, the De La Warrs found that they could 
obtain equally successful results either by directly radiating a plant or by 
beaming energy to it through one of its leaves or even its photograph. 
Why this should be so remained a mystery to the De La Warrs, who 
could only state: “It is still problematical whether it is the apparatus, the 
photographic emulsion or the presence of a specific operator that pro¬ 
duces the effects—or a combination of all these factors.” 

De La Warr further theorized that in addition to radiations of light 
the emulsion on the negative receives from the subject other radiations, 
the precise nature of which was unknown. There was also evidence that 
a relationship perdured between a plant and a leaf detached from it, or 
the expressed juice of that plant, just as it existed between one of 
Abrams’ patients and his blood spot. 

“It would appear,” wrote De La Warr, “that each molecule of matter 
is capable of producing a tiny electrical voltage that is specific to itself, 
and which ‘transmits’ rather like a tiny radio transmitter-receiver. * 


■ collection of molecules, therefore, is capable of transmitting a generic 
pattern. This means that the signal from a plant or human is quite 
individual, and that each plant or person will receive a transmission on 
their own generic pattern. It is here that the photograph plays its part, 
as it is thought that the emulsion on the negative retains the generic 
pattern of the object photographed and can be induced to re-radiate as 

a carrier. Thus, with a photograph of a plant in circuit it is possible to 
affect that plant at a distance.” 

The theory was in no way airtight, but the results obtained by radion¬ 
ics were fantastic. Realizing that the presence of living organisms in the 
soil is a prerequisite to good husbandry, the De La Warrs wondered if 
they could treat the soil itself through the cells living within it by 
radiating energy patterns effectively equivalent to plant nutrients. To 
attempt this they determined to photograph the soil of garden plots, 

treat the photos radionically, then plant vegetables in the treated soil to 
see how they would fare. 

They began with cabbages. Selecting two sites eighty feet apart, in 
the curtilage of their laboratory, they removed all the topsoil. This they 
thoroughly sieved and mixed to eliminate any possibility of soil variation, 
then spread it back on the sites, allowing it to settle for a week. 

On the 27th of March, 1954, they began a month-long treatment of 
one site by radiating its photograph daily in their darkroom, leaving the 
other site untreated. This treatment accomplished, they planted four 
young cabbages, selected for their similarity, into the soil of each site. 
For two weeks no difference in the rate of growth was observable, 

N Caus * n § ^em to have doubts about the procedure. Thenceforth to the 
end of June, the cabbages in the treated soil continued to grow larger 
than those left to grow normally. Photographs taken some four weeks 
before maturity revealed that the plants in the treated site were three 
times larger than those left to grow normally. 

Encouraged by this success, the De La Warrs decided to repeat the 
experiment on a larger scale. They noticed that in one strip of garden 
three rows of peas thirty-seven feet long were growing so uniformly as 
to leave little doubt that the soil was of equal consistency throughout. 

The peas were uprooted and the site prepared for fresh planting. The 

Mind Over Matter 345 

strip was divided into fifteen plots, six of which were photographed fro m 
a bird’s eye view and treated radionically every day for one month. Two 
plots were left untreated; seven others were used as buffers. 

At the beginning of August, ninety-six Early English winter-resisting 
broccoli plants, all seven inches high, were set out, six to a plot. The 
radionically treated plots were rephotographed with the plants in them 
and irradiated daily until the experiment was concluded in mid-January, 
1955, after snow and ice had apparently stopped all growth. Accurate 
weighing of the plants under the scrutiny of an expert from Oxford 
University’s Department of Agriculture, Dr. E. W. Russell, who ob¬ 
served the experiment from beginning to end, revealed that an average 
81 percent increase in total crop yield had been obtained for the treated 
plants compared to the nontreated controls. 

After successfully experimenting with lettuces, suggested by Russell 
because they were fast-growing, the De La Warrs next decided to 
broadcast treatment from their laboratories to a garden at Old Boars 
Hill, two miles from Oxford. They laid out an equilateral plot, divided 
it into four squares, and planted broad-leaf beans in each square. A single 
square was photographed and irradiated from the beginning of May to 
the beginning of August, 1955. At the end of the test, the height of the 
bean plants grown in the treated square was 9 Vi inches greater than in 
any of the other squares, and the number of pods greater than for all 
the other plants combined. 

Further to extend the distance between the soil treated and the 
laboratory, the De La Warrs cooperated with a carrot grower in Scot¬ 
land. Soil samples taken from seventeen acres of a twenty-two-acre field 
were irradiated at Oxford each day throughout the growing season. 
When the carrots were pulled from the earth, those treated weighed out 
20 percent heavier than the ones which were left alone. Pleased as they 
were with the astonishing results they were obtaining, the De La Warrs 
still had no idea why the radiation from their equipment affected the 
growth of various vegetables so favorably. 

During the next growing season in 1956, they decided to ascertain 
whether an inert substance, if irradiated and mixed with soil, could 
reradiate the nutritive energy patterns to the seeds during germination 


■Bf gjjd growth. The substance they selected was “vermiculite,” a micaceous 
Wm silica sold by the buiilding industry as an insulator, which was both 
f T chemically inert and insoluble in water. To treat it they blew it into the 
air for seven hours in front of a radionic apparatus normally used for 
i i therapeutic purposes on humans. 

They then mixed the treated vermiculite with a grass-seed mixture 
containing rye, cocksfoot, and other varieties. The proportions were two 
parts vermiculite to one part-grass seed by weight. The mix was sown 
in two boxes; an identical mixture, containing untreated vermiculite, 
was sown in two similar boxes. The soil was the same throughout. The 
results, as confirmed by a leading agricultural firm, showed that the 
treated vermiculite produced a crop 186 percent heavier in moist 
weight, with a proteim content 270 percent higher, an extraordinary gain 
for any farmer. 

Milford oats, seeded with treated vermiculite in a yard-square plot at 
. a rate equivalent to 252 pounds to the acre, when harvested five months 
later produced at an estimated rate of two tons to the acre or a crop 
270 percent larger than that obtained from an untreated square. More 
uncannily, oat seeds .grown in a beaker of nothing but distilled water 
containing not a single nutrient nevertheless grew luxuriously if treated 
vermiculite was added to the water. 

At this point a nationally known plant-breeding establishment re¬ 
quested to perform tests with the treated vermiculite on various types 
of seed. Under the firm’s rigid test conditions, the phenomenal increases 
in growth obtained by the De La Warrs were no longer apparent. 

Instead of dejection, this news brought the De La Warrs to a stunning 
realization: perhaps the plants had been responding all along not to the 
radiations from their machines but indirectly to the human beings 
involved in the experiments! 

To test this idea they called up the plant-breeding firm and obtained 
permission to run the very same tests the firm had performed on exactly 
the same plots. To the amazement of the establishment's horticultural 
staff, the De La Warrs were successful in increasing growth with treated 
vermiculite to a significant degree but, try as they would, the professional 
plant growers could not repeat the De La Warrs’ success. 

Mind Over Matter 347 

After three years of intense labor with plants, and out-of-pocket costs 
of some $20,000, the De La Warrs had at last stumbled onto the crux 
of the problem. A human factor of immense importance was confusing 
the issue. To determine the extent of this factor they again mixed 
vermiculite into the soil of potted oats. Their assistants, who daily 
poured measured quantities of water onto the seeds, were told which 
pots contained the treated substance, which the untreated. What they 
were not told was that none of the vermiculite used had in any way been 
irradiated and was as inert as when brought from the supplier. 

Though every one of the oat seeds had received no nutrient energy 
other than that provided by the soil itself, the De La Warrs were excited 
to note that the seedlings in those pots which the assistants believed to 
contain treated vermiculite were coming up faster than the others. 
Human belief that a plant might grow faster was apparently acting as 
a nutrient to actually produce faster growth. Thought was a food! 

De La Warr, who considered this experiment the most important he 
had ever run, found himself face to face with a shattering new reality 
with the most far-reaching implications: the mind of a human being 
could affect cell formation! 

When De La Warr described this experiment to one of Great Brit¬ 
ain's leading physicists and suggested that a universal energy could be 
evoked by the proper attunement of one's thoughts, he was told curtly: 
"I do not believe you, Mr. De La Warr. If you can affect the number 
of atoms in a growing plant by your thought process, we must revise our 
concept of what constitutes matter." 

“Indeed we must,” said De La Warr, “even if such revision poses a 
whole overhaul of existing knowledge. How, for instance, could this 
energy be incorporated into mathematical equations? What would hap¬ 
pen to the law of the conservation of energy?" 

When De La Warr realized that the real key to getting plants to 
flourish was simply asking them to do so, he published an article in his 
journal, Mind and Matter , entitled “Blessing Plants to Increase their 
Growth," asking readers to produce evidence to support his own experi¬ 
mental results, which were so at variance with accepted and current 
materialistic atomic theory. 


B| One of the most crucial steps in a fifteen- ; t e p procedure outlined in 
■ X the article was that in which the experimen er was to hold bean seeds 
jn his hands and invoke a blessing, varying according to his faith or 
denomination, in a reverent and purposeful manner. Though warmly 
received by readers, the article evoked a harsl re ply from officials of the 
Roman Catholic Church, who took umbrage because, as they pointed 
out, it was inadmissible for anyone below the ra nk of deacon to perform 
any act of blessing. Laymen were supposed > n ly to ask the Creator to 
perform a blessing. To still the waters of [ ro test, the De La Warrs 
renamed their experiment “Increasing the R^ e Q f Plant Growth by the 
Mental Projection of an Undefined Energy ' 

Many of their readers reported success s m ilar to that attained in 
America by the Reverend Franklin Loehr, \hose 700 experiments on 
the effect of prayer on plants, conducted by 150 persons, using 27,000 
seeds, under the auspices of Loehr’s Religion Research Foundation in 
Los Angeles, are reported in his book The t 0 wer of Prayer on Plants. 
Loehr showed that the growth rate of plart s could be accelerated as 
much as 20 percent when individuals singly (- [ n concert visualized the 
plants as thriving under ideal conditions, "hough their experiments 
seemed to be acceptable from the evidence pictures presented, the 
results were ignored by scientists on the basithat Loehr and his assist¬ 
ants had no scientific training and used reitively crude methods to 
measure growth. 

However, Dr. Robert N. Miller, an indus r j a ] research scientist and 
former professor of chemical engineering a Georgia Tech, began a 
series of experiments in 1967 with Ambrose in d Olga Worrall, whose 
feats of healing have become celebrated in th United States. Using an 
extremely accurate method of measuring plat growth rates developed 
by Dr. H. H. Kleuter of the United States Lpartment of Agriculture, 
with accuracies up to one thousandth of q inch per hour. Miller, 
working in Atlanta, Georgia, asked the Worr;] s to direct their thoughts 
at rye seedlings from Baltimore, some 600 iiles away. 

Whereas the growth rate of a new blade ,f rye grass had been ob- 
. served by Miller to stabilize at 0.00625 inch i T hour, after he asked the 
Worralls to think of the seedling at exactly 9» the trace on a graph 

Mind Over Matter 349 

indicating growth rate began immediately to deviate upward and by 8 
a.m. the following morning the grass was growing at a rate 84 percent 
faster. Instead of growing the expected inch in the interval, the 
seedling had sprouted more than Yi inch. Miller reported that the 
dramatic results of his experiment suggest that the sensitive experimen¬ 
tal technique could be used to measure accurately the effect of mind 
over matter. 

The mysteries of how the human mind may act through radionic 
devices such as those of UKACO, Hieronymus, or De La Warr are yet 
to be explained. In an amazing development, the late John Campbell, 
editor of Astounding Science Fiction —since become Analog Science 
Fiction/Science Fact —determined in the 1950s that a circuit diagram 
of Hieronymus’ machine drawn in India ink worked as well as the 
machine itself “Your electronic circuit,” he wrote to Hieronymus, 
“represents a pattern of relationships. The electrical characteristics are 
unimportant and can be dropped out completely.” 

Voysey, an English dowser, corroborated the evidence by pointing out 
that if he traces a line with pencil on paper, thinking strongly that this 
mark will represent a certain metal, his pendulum will react to the drawn 
line exactly as if it were the metal. 

After a prolonged study of radionic devices sponsored by the Founda¬ 
tion for the Study of Consciousness set up by Arthur M. Young, inven¬ 
tor of the Bell helicopter, Frances Farrelly, who ran her own college for 
medical laboratory technicians, also came to the conclusion that the 
devices were not necessary to achieve effects. While working in England 
with a Harley Street physician, she found she could walk toward a 
patient with her hands outstretched and feel within her own body where 
the patient had trouble. As she says: “1 was beginning to run the 
instrument in my head, or mentally only.” Since then, Farrelly has been 
able to make diagnoses of ills of individuals not only without a radionics 
device but without a blood spot or a photograph or anything at all. The 
mental image of a patient held in her mind is sufficient. She calls this 
a “resonating reflex phenomenon.” 

In the summer of 1973 Farrelly's talents were put to test in Prague 
when one of the participants in the First International Conference on 


S' Psychotronics—a Czech logism for the effects of mental energy on 
matter—lost a wallet in the cavernous four-story Railway Workers' 
. ’ Building, site of the conference. Within minutes, Farrelly tracked it 
down, pinpointing its exact location inside a box at the back of a dark 
closet where a cleaning woman had placed it for safekeeping. 

The following day she was confronted by a professor from the Czech¬ 
oslovak Academy of Sciences who gave her a chip of mineralized rock 
and asked her before a large audience if she could state its origin and 
age. Rubbing the table before her to get a radionic type “stick,” Farrelly, 
after putting a dozen questions to herself, stated that the mineral in 
question came from a meteor and was about 3,200,000 years old, answers 
which exactly matched the most considered conclusions of expert Czech 

■’ During her stay in England, Farrelly was intrigued that the De La 
Warrs seemed to have radionically detected that every living plant has 
a critical rotational position (CRP), which is apparently established by 
the earth's magnetic field as the seed sprouts out of the ground. If the 
seedling is transplanted in such a way that it continues to grow in its 
CRP, it will thrive better than plants which have been transplanted out 
of that orientation. This phenomenon was also independently discov¬ 
ered by Hieronymus, who found that a reading on the dials of his 
-radionic device was maximum when the plant was rotated in a given 
position with respect to a compass rose. 

The De La Warrs had also found that, because of this apparent 
relationship with the geomagnetic field, a plant has a pattern of radiation 
Ground it. Nodal points within this pattern or web which seem to 
? concentrate the field of radiation can be located by a portable detector 
J: With a probe and a rubbing plate similar to that on their radionics device. 

In England Frances Farrelly found that with a simple dowsing pen¬ 
dulum she could locate on a tree and in the domelike geometric pattern 
'■around it nodal points of energy which could expose X-ray film. 
y This field of energy may be related in some way to a magnetic field, 

1 since both can be detected with dowsing methods. In Lorton, Virginia, 
*the authors witnessed the incredible sensitivity to a magnetic field as 
^displayed by Wilhelm de Boer, a Rutenmeister, or master dowser, who 


Mind Over Matter 351 

lives in the Hanseatic city of Bremen, West Germany. When Dr. Zaboj 
Harvalik asked de Boer to walk through a magnetic field which could 
be switched on or off, each time the field was on de Boers tiny dowsing 
rod delicately held in his fingertips would revolve. When the field was 
off, the rod would not move. 

With the same rod de Boer measures the auras of trees and people. 
First backing off from a large oak, he then advanced toward it until he 
was about twenty feet away, at which point the rod flipped downward. 
On a smaller tree de Boer had to approach more closely before there was 
any reaction from the rod. 

“This energy coming out of a large oak can temporarily increase the 
strength of a human aura, or a person’s vitality,” said de Boer, demon¬ 
strating that it extended some nine to ten feet outward from Harvalik’s 
chest but was double that length after Harvalik hugged a big oak for two 
minutes. De Boer related how the “Iron Chancellor” of Germany, 
Bismarck, at the advice of his personal physician, would put his arms 
around a tree for up to half an hour to recover from the fatigue of 
pressing duties. 

Harvalik stated that the aura de Boer was measuring might not be the 
same as that seen around human beings by sensitives, to which the 
Britishers, Dr. Walter Kilner and Oscar Bagnall, devoted much atten¬ 
tion, since it seemed to extend further from the body. As Harvalik put 
it: “We don’t really know exactly what this extended aura is and we 
certainly have no way to analyze it in a physics laboratory, at least not 

Whether the auric field as measured by de Boer is the same as the 
one which contains the “nodal points” as revealed on film by Frances 
Farrelly is also as yet unanswerable. It appears that when the material 
substance with which the field is associated is broken up, the field goes 
with the individual parts which remain in contact even at a distance. 
This led the De La Warrs to wonder if a slip cut from a plant and rooted 
would benefit from the radiations emitted by its “mother” or pine away 
in the absence of such radiation. Incinerating a mother plant, roots and 
all, they found that its motherless children did not thrive as well as 
similar shoots taken from a mother which was permitted to continue 

Most incredible to J. I. Rodale, who successfully repeated the De La 
Warrs’ experiment, was the allegation that the mother plant did not 
necessarily have to be growing near her children for them to benefit from 
her “protection.” The mother could apparently be in the next city, the 
next country, across the ocean, or anywhere on earth. If so, suggested 
Rodale, it would tend to indicate that all living things, including human 
babies, get protective radiations from their mothers, that radiations 
might underlie “love at first sight” and that people with “green thumbs” 
are emitting radiations beneficial to their plants. 

That an energy comes from the hands of a healer—as was claimed of 
Jesus Christ—and that this energy can increase the growth of plants 
seems to have been proved in a scientific experiment on sprouting seeds 
by Dr. Bernard Grad, a research biochemist at Allan Memorial Institute 
of Psychiatry of McGill University in Montreal. Taking the “healing 
controversy” into his laboratory, he performed some careful experiments 
with the cooperation of a retired Hungarian Army colonel, Oskar Es- 
tebany, who became aware of his own extraordinary healing powers 
during the Hungarian revolt against the Soviet occupation of his country 

in 1956. 

Grad’s.jneticulous experiments, written up in the Journal of the So¬ 
ciety for*Bsychical Research and the International Journal of Parapsy¬ 
chology indicated that the sprouting of grains and the total amount of 
green plant issuing therefrom could be significantly increased when 
compared to controls, by watering them with a solution sealed in bottles 
and exposed only to the healing energy of Estebany’s hands. 

In his first rigidly controlled experiments Grad convinced himself that 
by holding the cages of wounded mice, but not actually touching the 
animals themselves, Estebany could heal their wounds faster than if the 
mice were exposed to heat or left untreated. Estebany also could retard 
the growth of goiters produced in the mice by iodine-deficient diets and 
goitrogens and hasten their disappearance when the mice were returned 
to a normal diet. 

Grad wondered what results might be obtained from subjects other 
than Estebany. From the many patients available at the institute he 
chose a twenty-six-year-old woman with a depressive neurotic reaction 
and a thirty-seven-year-old man with a psychotic depression. He also 

Mind Over Matter 353 

selected a psychiatrically normal man of fifty-two. What Grad sought 
to ascertain was whether a solution held for thirty minutes in the hands 
of a normal individual would cause plants to grow at a faster rate than 
a solution held for the same amount of time by neurotics and psychotics. 

After the threesome had held sealed bottles of saline solution, their 
contents were poured on barley seeds embedded in soil. Grad found that 
the little plants watered by the saline solution held by the normal human 
being grew significantly faster than those held by the psychiatric pa¬ 
tients, or by a control group left untreated. The plants treated by the 
psychotic grew the slowest. Contrary to Grad’s expectations, the plants 
treated by the neurotic grew at a slightly higher rate than the controls. 

Grad noticed that when the psychotic was given the sealed bottle to 
hold he expressed not the slightest reaction or emotion, whereas the 
neurotic immediately inquired about the reason for the procedure and, 
when told, responded with an expression of interest and what Grad 
termed a “brightening of mood.” Grad also observed that she lovingly 
cradled the bottle in her lap as a mother would a child. Grad reached 
the conclusion that “the important fact for the purpose of the experi¬ 
ment was not the state of her general diagnosis but of her mood at the 
time she was holding the bottle.” In his detailed account of the experi¬ 
ment Grad reported to the American Society for Psychical Research 
that it would seem that a negative mood, such as depression, anxiety, 
or hostility while treating the solutions would result in an inhibition of 
cell growth when plants were watered with that solution. 

Grad saw the implications of his experiment to be far-reaching. If a 
person’s mood could influence a saline solution held in the hands, it 
seemed natural to assume that a cook’s or housewife’s mood could 
influence the quality of food prepared for a meal. He recalled that in 
various countries menstruating milkmaids were not permitted in that 
part of the dairy where cheese was being prepared because of a presumed 
unfavorable effect on the bacterial cultures, and that during their men¬ 
strual periods women have been held to influence negatively the canning 
of perishables, the stiffening of egg white, and the survival of cut flowers. 
If Grad s experiments were correct, it was not the menstruation but the 
depression created by it in certain women that had the effect, a discovery 


which removes from the realm of prejudice to the realm of science the 
biblical injunction against “unclean” women. 

The whole subject of radionics and the part played by the action of 
the human mind—and whether it interacts with various radionics de¬ 
vices designed by De La Warr, Hieronymus, Drown, Abrams and others 
—stands on the very frontier of physics and metaphysics and the no- 
man's land which lies between them. 

As Galen Hieronymus said to the authors: “Is the force and its 
■ manipulation basically in the realm of the psychic? We know that 
powerful psychics such as Frances Farrelly can produce results with no 
help whatsoever from a device. But others seem to be helped by a 
radionics instrument even when, like the De La Warrs, they have 
well-developed psychic powers ” 

Hieronymus has tried his best to separate the action of the human 
mind from whatever the various “boxes” do to interact with it. “1 can 
take an ordinary empty cigar box and mount a tuning dial on top of it,” 
he says. By properly setting the dial at a given tuning, some psychics 
have been able to cure a given disease. I think they do this because they 

believe that they are using the box when, in reality, they are using only 
psychic ability. 

On the other hand, we are able without question to run analyses of 
ill persons and, having made our diagnoses, give information to third 
parties on how to set dials on healing instruments when those persons 
know nothing about radionics and are merely following instructions. 
The proper setting of the dials seems to have important effects. So there 
are two sides to the question which await resolution.” Hieronymus says 
that a good friend, an Episcopal minister in Florida, received a hand- 
carved ebony cross from the family of an old Scottish vicar who had died 
in Great Britain. Touched, he replaced the metal cross which he nor¬ 
mally wore around his neck with the ebony cross each time he offered 
holy services. A short time later he told Hieronymus that he felt exhaust- 
ingly depleted after each church service. 

As a long-time “radionic detective,” Hieronymus questioned his 
friend whether he had not done something different during the services 
which seemed so to fatigue him. When the clergyman remembered the 

Mind Over Matter 355 

substitution of crosses, Hieronymus tested his friend’s vitality with and 
without the ebony rood around his neck. Whenever the black cross was 
worn, the minister’s vitality dropped almost to the zero point on the 
device’s dials. 

Hieronymus suggested to his friend that he exorcise the gift cross. 
This accomplished, the minister no longer felt any debilitating effects. 
The two friends concluded that negative thoughts from the old vicar had 
lodged in the ebony cross and the energy therefrom was affecting its new 

The experiments run on certain strange figurines made of baked clay, 
stone, and bone discovered at Acambaro in the Mexican state of 
Guanajuato by Waldemar Julsrud offer impressive evidence that matter 
can receive malevolent energy and store it for long periods of time, 
perhaps thousands of years. 

Professor Charles H. Hapgood in his manuscript, Reports from Acdm- 
baro, says of the huge Julsrud collection, numbering over 33,000 ar¬ 
tifacts, that it cannot be identified with any of the known cultures of 
Mexico but suggests relationships not only with specific Indian tribes of 
the Western Hemisphere but also with peoples of the south Pacific and 
Africa. Researchers sponsored by Arthur M. Young’s foundation se¬ 
lected a few examples which appeared to the eye as most evilly weird. 
After putting them individually in cages together with mice, they found 
that the tails of some of the mice turned black and fell off and that other 
animals died after only a night’s exposure to the objects. There was 
evidently a malevolent energy—of a kind usually associated with voodoo 
—present in the evil-looking artifacts which was capable of destroying 
a mouse. 

If mental intercession can act malevolently to destroy life, it is also 
clear, as the radionic process proves, that it can act benevolently to 
enhance life. In his unique paper, “Radionics, Radiesthesia and Phys¬ 
ics,” published by the Academy of Parapsychology and Medicine, 
Professor William A. Tiller, chairman of the Department of Material 
Science at Stanford University, who devoted part of a year-long stay in 
England to the study of radionics at the De La Warr laboratories, 
presents a model to explain how the process works. 



The basic idea in radionics [writes Tiller] is that each individual, orga¬ 
nism, or material radiates and absorbs energy via a unique wave field 
which exhibits certain geometrical, frequency and radiation-type charac¬ 
teristics. This is an extended force field that exists around all forms of 
matter whether animate or inanimate. A useful analogy here is the physi¬ 
cal atom that is continually radiating electromagnetic energy in the form 
of waves because of its oscillating electrical dipole movement and its 
thermal vibrations. The more complex the material, the more complex 
the wave form. Living things, like humans, emit a very complex wave 
spectrum of which parts are associated with the various organs and sys¬ 
tems of the body. 

Tiller holds that if the millions of new cells bom in our bodies each 
day come into being in the presence of fields polarized by the radionic 
process, they tend to grow in a healthier configuration, which weakens 
the original field of an abnormal or diseased structure. Continued treat¬ 
ment eventually molds the healthy organ structure and the condition is 

Following Hindu Yoga philosophy, Tiller postulates further that there 
are seven principles operating in man, each of which constitutes a 
different type of substance that obeys a unique set of natural laws. These 
he lists as the physical , which most of us simply call the “body”; the 
etheric, or what the Russians have termed the “bioplasmic”; the astral , 
or emotional body, followed by three separate intuitive, intellectual, and 
spiritual minds; and finally pure spirit or divine mind. 

“These substances are presumed to exist everywhere in nature and to 
interpenetrate with the human body, i.e., they all exist within the 
physical atom and organize themselves within the body,” writes Tiller, 
who adds that if one thinks of seven transparent sheets containing seven 
different circuit patterns, each of a different color, and then overlays 
them, one can thus visualize the complete organization of the different 
levels of substance in the body. Although the different energy fields 
perturb each other only in a small way, they can be influenced to do so 
in a strong way, says Tiller, by the agency of mind. 

Tiller points out that the seven endocrine centers of the physical body 
—the gonads, cells of Lydig, adrenals, thymus, thyroid, pineal, and 
pituitary—are paralleled in Hindu philosophy by seven energy vortices, 

Mind Over Matter 357 

or chakras , which are linked in the etheric body by a current of vitality. 
This current, says Tiller, is associated with the meridians of acupuncture 
and the points on them which, though known to the Chinese millennia 
ago, have only recently been detected with an instrument that measures 
electrical resistance. 

One of our goals [continues Tiileri * s to arrange our etheric/physical 
system so as to deliver maximum power to the physical body from the 
environmental energy stream. One reason for wanting to tune the chak¬ 
ra/endocrine system relates to the transmitting of spiritual and healing 
qualities into the earth environment. These seven endocrine centers have 
been called our sacred centers and through them we radiate transmitting 
information of a quality (frequency) associated with that center. 

Tiller offers the example of the thymus gland, the center supposed to 
control the quality of love in all its spectral range. He postulates that an 
entity radiates from this gland a field that is broadcast through space and 
is absorbed in the corresponding gland by another entity. This stimulates 
the gland and generates some biological activity within the organism. If 
the second entity radiates an in-phase vibration back to the first, then 
the love consciousness can form a bond between them. Most of us, in 
Tiller’s view, are confined to expressing love in so limited a way that it 
is radiated at small power and has a restricted range of expression such 
that only a few individuals will receive the radiation and be aware of it. 
But, as Tiller puts it, "if the entity has built himself to radiate at large 
power and over a very broad band of the spectral distribution, then 
many, many entities will receive this radiation, be aware of this love and 
be nourished by it.” Tiller’s statement fits well with Rexford Daniels 
idea that altruism has a higher, and perhaps more powerful, set of 
frequencies than egotism. 

It also echoes the latest conclusions of Marcel Vogel: 

A thought is an act of creation. It is what we are here for, to create, 
to bring into being ourself by means of thinking. The way a thought can 
be observed and measured by a simple life form, a plant, shows a wonder¬ 
ful relationship between man and plant. When we love, we release our 
thought energy and transpose it to the recipient of our love. Our primary 
responsibility is to love. 



m Another researcher to accept the power of the mind is a neurologist 
| and medical electronics expert, Dr. Andrija Puharich, who has recently 
c reported some of the most awe-inspiring feats of psychic, or mental, 
} power yet to confront physicists, psychologists, and other academicians. 
Author of The Sacred Mushroom (Doubleday, New York, 1959), which 
dealt with the effects of hallucinogenic plants, such as peyote, a decade 
before the world’s younger generation became absorbed with mind- 
bending drugs, from marijuana to LSD, and of Beyond Telepathy (Dar- 
ton, Longman and Todd, London, 1962) a decade before studies of 
direct idea transference from one human mind to another were consid¬ 
ered anything but crazy by the "responsible” scientific community, 
Puharich has now discovered a truly remarkable psychic in the body of 
a young Israeli, Uri Geller, whose abilities have startled hundreds of 
audiences and left most open-minded scientists aghast at their implica¬ 

Under rigorous test conditions, Geller has been able to unfailingly 
locate an iron ball or water hidden in one of ten identical sealed metal 
cans without touching the cans, to move solid objects at a distance 
without the use of any energy known to physics, to bend at a distance 
dense metal objects, such as a solid silver Mexican coin, as if they were 
plastic in his hands, to repair broken watches and get them running 
without having ever opened their cases, to shatter a set of watchmaker's 
screwdrivers made of a special alloyed steel, and even to cause objects 
to vanish from their locations and reappear somewhere else. Geller can 
also affect at will the material recorded on a magnetic tape, such as that 
used in television. 

i Puharich has now organized a multi-disciplinary international group 
of scientists to assess the abilities of Geller and of perhaps thousands of 
other people who would reveal similar gifts if they were taken seriously 
rather than considered freaks. A theoretical group which will take the 
results of the experiments and seek to mathematically provide physical 
constructs for them is being led by physicist Dr. Edward Bastin, member 
of the "Epiphany Philosophers” at Cambridge University in England 
and originator of the most advanced quantum theory. 

The group will be asking such fundamental questions as: How can a 


Mind Over Matter 359 




1 ikif-.' 

• 1 1 

:: -h ! --/ 

. ■* . ■ 


1 1 

■> w i : 1 
i "i i 

■I f u ■; 
J ■. { 

coin disappear? What kind of space, or lack of it, is involved? arc 
the energetics which operate during Geller s transformations and van- 


As Puharich told Connie Best, author of an article on Geller, “The 
Man Who Bends Science”: 

We’re trying to develop a model to explain how all these atoms can 
be taken apart. There are theories of annihilation and so on in microphy¬ 
sics, but there is no theory in the world that can explain this on a 
macroscopic scale. How can you take all these atoms apart or infinitely 
compress them to the point where they are so tiny they are invisible, have 
the thing parked in some unknown space, and then get the atoms back 


Geller not only can miraculously affect the so-called inanimate world 
but the world of living things as well. Before reliable witnesses he has 
placed his hands over a rosebud for slightly longer than a quarter of a 
minute, then opened them to reveal the rose in full and radiant bloom. 
As Connie Best comments: 

Physics is precise, unbending. Yet Uri Geller is finding loopholes in 
science wide enough to pluck a rose out of. Uri Geller is bending physics, 
forcing it to take account of the so-called paranormal powers of the 
mind. How much will physics have to change? If the readings of meters 
reflect the wishes of lab assistants, if the presence of an experimenter is 
enough to embarrass sub atomic particles, how are we to know where we 


As the Serbian-born American inventor and genius, Nikola Tesla, 
stated before his death: “The day science begins to study nonphysical 
phenomena, it will make more progress in one decade than in all the 
previous centuries of its existence.” 

Perhaps that decade is upon us. 



The most advanced experiment involving communication with plants 
has now developed in a remote corner of northern Scotland, with results 
more radiant than have been achieved by any other means. On a barren, 
wind-blown patch of gorse and sand overlooking the Firth of Moray, a 
seedling community has taken root which may flourish into a marvel of 
the Aquarian Age. 

Three miles as the raven croaks from the battlements of Duncan’s 
castle at Forres, and just south of the heath where the three witches 
prophesied to Macbeth that he would be Thane of Glamis and Cawdor, 
an ex-RAF squadron leader turned hotelkeeper decided to take up resi- 



dence with his wife and three young sons in the derelict corner of a 
caravan park on Findhorn Bay—a rubbish heap of old tin cans, broken 
bottles, brambles, and gorse bushes. 

Tall, ruddy, with the gentle manner of an English headmaster and the 
dress of a country squire, Peter Caddy, who once walked two thousand 
miles through the Himalayas, crossing Kashmir deep into Tibet, has 
been a follower since young manhood of a school of adepts whose object 
is to bring back beauty and wonder to this planet. Illumined by the 
dictates of his conscience, or as he chose to call it, the will of an 
all-powerful creative force revealed to him by his clairvoyant wife, Ei¬ 
leen, Caddy pulled up roots and moved to Findhorn one snowy Novem¬ 
ber day in 1962. Accompanying the Caddys was another sensitive, 

Dorothy Maclean, who had left the Canadian Foreign Office to study 

For some time the Caddys had been intent upon radically changing 

their lives by turning away from mundane occupations and materialist 

pursuits in order to enter upon what Caddy calls a long period of training 

and preparation. During this period they planned to surrender every- 

thing, including all personal volition, to a being they term “Unlimited 

Power and Love,” whose will is manifest to them through the guidance 

of a deceased Rosicrucian master whom they recognized in the flesh as 

Dr. G. A. Sullivan, and in the spirit as Aureolus, or St. Germain, or the 
Master of the Seventh Ray. 

To be fair, the place in which the Caddys least expected to settle was 
the unsightly, overcrowded encampment of mobile houses known as 
Findhorn Caravan Park. For years they had hurried past it on their way 
to and from Forres. Now some mysterious force was overriding their 
aversion. Following what appeared to be crystal guidance, they wheeled 
an old caravan onto the site of their new home—less than half an acre 
in a hollow not far from the main cluster of trailers, a patch of land 
composed mainly of sand and gravel, constantly swept by gale-force 
winds, protected only partially by tufts of broom and quitch grass which 
kept the sand from blowing away, and shaded by a belt of spiny fir trees. 

With winter coming it was a dismal prospect. Following the concept 
of the monks who used to build their monasteries by hand, putting love 




and light into the fabric of the building with every stone they laid, the 
Caddys cleaned their rickety trailer from top to bottom and polished all 
the furniture, pouring in vibrations of love to cancel out the negative 
vibrations they considered to be inevitable in structures built by people 
interested only in money. Cleansing and hand painting the caravan was 
a first step toward the creation of their own center of light. 

As none of the Findhorn pioneers was employed, and their meager 

resources would carry them through only one dark and clammy Scottish 

winter, they dreamed of springtime and establishing a garden partly to 

increase the protective shield of light round them and partly as a source 
of healthy nourishment. 

Short days and long nights Caddy pored over gardening books, which 
he found contradictory in their recommendations. Written for horticul¬ 
tural enthusiasts living mostly on the mild southern coast of England 
they were irritatingly irrelevant. When Easter rolled around to herald 
a renaissance of the land, the arid, all but lifeless soil surrounding their 
caravan seemed hopeless for growing anything comestible. Caddy, who 
had never sown a vegetable seed in his life, felt like Noah when guided 
to build an ark where there was no water; but he dutifully persisted. 
Either guidance was to be followed to the letter or they might as well 
return to the world of business. His Rosicrucian masters had taught him 

one prime rule of life: “To love where I was, love whom I was with, and 
love what I was doing.” 

To receive the arcane guidance on which the infant community 
planned its every move, Eileen would rise regularly at midnight and 
meditate for several hours, bundling herself in an overcoat against the 
chill of the Scottish nights, taking refuge in the only place that could 
afford her absolute tranquillity, the trailer park's frigid toilet. Eileen had 
read in a book that everyone receives his spiritual name at some point 
in life and that only then can he begin his spiritual work in earnest. In 
1953 she had felt the word Elixir branded on her forehead; so she 
adopted the name, and from then on her guidance was constant. 

In her clairvoyant vision Elixir saw seven cedarwood bungalows clus- 
■ tered together, m the midst of a splendid garden, all trim and neat. How 
; this vision was to materialize in the constricted squalor of the caravan 

§ Findhorn and the Garden of Eden 363 

site remained a mystery. Yet all were prepared to put their faith in her 

The prospect of creating a garden seemed a superhuman task. The 
ground was made of fine, dusty sand and gravel in which nothing grew 
but tough pointed grass. Elixir received guidance that each time you put 
a spade into the ground you put in your own vibrations, that the right 
vibrations acted as a magnet to draw in like vibrations. Peter Caddy 
cheerfully dug a strip of quitch turf three feet wide by nine feet long 
and laid it to one side. He then dug down eighteen inches, accumulating 
a pile of sand and gravel. In the clean trench he placed the strip of quitch 
turf upside down and broke it up with his spade. This was to insure that 
the turf would not sprout its way back up to the surface, but provide 
nourishment as it disintegrated. 

Repeating the operation with two more trenches, Caddy had a garden 
nine feet by nine. His problem was to get water into the soil, a far more 
difficult job than he imagined. The sand was so fine the water poured 
onto it simply went into globules like quicksilver. Only by dint of the 
most assiduous patience, by spraying the surface over long periods with 
a very’fine spray, was it possible to impregnate the soil sufficiently for 
it to hold the moisture. More stones and gravel had to be raked out; 
finally the plot was ready for seeding. According to the local agricultural 
experts and the available textbooks on gardening, nothing could be 
grown in the Findhorn soil except perhaps a few lettuces and radishes. 
Scanty fare for a family which had become accustomed at their hotel 
to daily steak or duck washed down with good red wine. 

Fortunately Elixir had been warned by her guidance that man is 
eating the wrong food, drinking the wrong drink, thinking the wrong 
thoughts, and making his body gross instead of a body of light. They 
were to eat less dense food and begin to concentrate on making a real 
garden, the fruit and vegetables of which, combined with honey and 
wheat germ, would constitute the fare in the new age of refined bodies. 

Conscientiously Caddy planted his lettuce seeds in an inch-deep 
furrow made with the handle of his spade, placing the seeds a foot apart, 
then raked them over. To sit in the sun and watch their garden grow 
the Findhorners needed a fence, to fend off the ever-present winds 









* 1 : 

■ V. 




blowing across the Moray Firth, and a level concrete patio. Sand they 
had in abundance, but no cement, nor any money for its purchase. 

Lumber for a slatted fence appeared as if by miracle from a man who 
was dismantling his garage. As soon as the fence was up a neighbor ran 
over to say that some barely damaged bags of cement had fallen from 
a truck across the road. In a short while they had a fenced patio from 
which to admire—not thriving young lettuce, but stunted apparitions, 
attacked by wireworms. 

What to do? Caddy had been warned by Elixir's guidance not to use 
chemical insecticides. A neighbor chanced to pass and informed him of 
a pile of seasoned soot just outside the entrance to the caravan park, an 
admirable antidote to wireworms. 

Caddy spread it carefully, without taking into account the wind which 
that night blew it through the caravan, into hair, books, and clothing. 
Luckily it rained and the soot was washed into the soil. By the end of 
May they were eating luscious lettuces and radishes. 

As Elixir's guidance informed them that chemical fertilizers were 
toxic to the human body, a compost heap was essential if they were to 
grow a greater variety of vegetables. Only, where to obtain the ingredi¬ 
ents? A pile of rotting grass was donated by a neighbor. A nearby farmer, 
grateful for a rescued sheep, gave Caddy a large load of cow manure. A 
friend who owned a riding stable allowed them to follow his horses with 
bucket and shovel. A nearby distillery supplied them with free peat dross 
and cummings, a natural barley-germ fertilizer. Seaweed they gathered 
free from the beach. A bale of hay, dropped from a passing truck almost 
at the gate of the park as if from heaven, served to cover the piles of 

Relying on such “supermundane assistance,” the Findhorners acted 
as if they were endowed. As one of them wrote: “We could have been 
negative and said the soil was useless—as it was. Instead we put hard 
work and positive thought into everything we did.” Caddy began work¬ 
ing from morning till night, putting sweat and radiations into the soil, 
his object to grow sufficient vegetables and salads to provide a large part 
of their diet in the months to come. Along with pure air, sunlight, sea 
bathing, and plenty of cold, pure water, they hoped gradually to purify 

Findhom and the Garden of Eden 365 

their bodies and endow them with energy, on the theory that the more 
refined their bodies became the more they would be able to absorb 
cosmic energies and the less solid food they would need. 

The Findhorners planted watercress, tomatoes, cucumbers, spinach, 
parsley, squash, and asparagus. As a living wall against an unruly Dalma¬ 
tian they planted hedges of blackberries and raspberries round their 
garden, which began to spread beyond the caravan till it covered two 
acres of ground, every bit of soil of which had to be manufactured from 
old turf and new compost, every square inch manhandled several times 
in the process. 

Within two months the results were stunning the neighbors, who, not 
knowing of the spirit in which the Caddys were going about their 
gardening, could not understand what was happening, especially when 
the Caddys’ cabbages and Brussels sprouts were the only ones in the area 
to survive a plague of cabbage-root grubs which eat away at the roots 
of the plants, and their harvest of black currants grew healthily by the 
bushel, whereas the crop largely failed in the rest of the county. 

Findhorn lunches began to consist of salads with over twenty ingredi¬ 
ents; surplus quantities of lettuce, radishes, spinach, and parsley were 
disposed of round the county, which was suffering a shortage. Their 
evening meals included two or three vegetables from the garden, grown 
without fertilizer or insecticides, freshly picked and freshly cooked. 
Stews from garden vegetables consisted of onions, leeks, garlic, carrots, 
parsnips, rutabagas, turnips, artichokes, kohlrabi, celery, squash, 
potatoes, flavored with all kinds of herbs. 

Elixir was told to let her mind dwell on each ingredient when making 
a salad, or a ratatouille, that her thoughts and feelings were important 
in the continuing cycle of life. She was to appreciate whatever she was 
doing, whether peeling a carrot or podding a pea, and to consider each 
pea or bean a living thing in her hands. Of the peelings and garbage 
nothing was to be wasted. All was to go back into the compost and the 
soil, constantly increasing the live vibrations. The only drawback to this 
life was that when they were obliged to go into town, or on a short 
holiday, they found it very difficult to support normal food. Elixir be¬ 
came so sensitive it was painful for her to go near the noxious vibrations 
of so-called civilization. 


When midsummer came they were ready to preserve quantities of 
raspberries, blackberries, and strawberries, putting up altogether a hun¬ 
dred pounds of jam. They pickled fifteen pounds of red cabbage, and 
large quantities of cucumbers. In a newly built garage they stored 
potatoes, carrots, beets, and shelves full of shallots, garlic, and onions. 
During the winter they prepared the earth for the following season and 
planted more fruits, altogether some twenty species, including apples, 
pears, plums, greengages, cherries, apricots, loganberries, and boysenber- 
ries. By May of 1964 the fruit trees and bushes were bursting into bud. 

When estimating the number of red cabbages the Findhorners would 
need for the following season Caddy calculated that with an average 

weight of three or four pounds they would require no more than eight. 
To the Findhorners’ amazement, when the cabbages matured one of 
them weighed thirty-eight pounds and another forty-two. A sprouting 
broccoli, mistakenly planted as a cauliflower, grew to such enormous 
proportions that it provided vegetables for weeks; when eventually 
pulled out of the ground it was nearly too heavy to be lifted. 

It began to dawn on Caddy that there might be some greater underly¬ 
ing purpose behind what was happening at Findhorn, that they must be 
involved in some mysterious pioneering venture, some larger experiment 
in group living, that the garden might be the nucleus of some larger 
experiment in New Age living, a sort of training course in the realization 
that Life is a Whole. 

In June of 1964 when the county horticultural adviser came to take 
a sample of the soil for analysis, his first comment on arrival was that 
the soil would require a dressing of at least two ounces of sulfate of 
potash per square yard. Caddy replied that he did not believe in artificial 
fertilizers, that he was happy using compost and wood ash. The adviser 
said that would be totally inadequate. 

Six weeks later, when the adviser returned bringing the results of the 
analysis which had been carried out in Aberdeen, he acknowledged with 
some bewilderment that the analysis had found no deficiencies in the 
soil sample. All necessary elements, including rare trace elements, were 
present. The adviser was so astonished by the results that he asked 
Caddy to take part in a broadcast about the garden in which the adviser 
would take the chair and an experienced gardener using conventional 

Findhorn and the Garden of Eden 367 



methods with chemical fertilizers would debate with Caddy. Caddy says 
that at the time he still did not feel it appropriate to expound to the 
public on the subject of the spiritual side of their endeavor and again 
he attributed the success solely to organic manure and compost. 

By now they were growing sixty-five different kinds of vegetables, 
twenty-one fruits, and over forty herbs, both culinary and medicinal. For 
some time Dorothy Maclean had also been receiving extraordinary 
spiritual guidance of her own and had adopted the spiritual name of 
Divina. She learned from the aromatic plants in the garden that their 
unique wavelengths could serve special functions for humans, affecting 
different parts of human anatomy as well as the human psyche, some 
plants being good for wounds, others for eyesight, others for human 
emotions. She realized that by raising the quality of her own vibrations 
she might eventually open the doors to a whole new spiritual realm of 
plant life. It became clear to her that human thinking, human passion, 
human anger, human kindliness and affection, all have far-reaching 
effects on the world of plants, that they are most susceptible to human 
thoughts and emotions, which affect their energy. Poisonous and bad- 
tempered moods have as depressing an effect on plants as happy, uplift¬ 
ing frequencies have a beneficial effect. It occurred to her also that bad 
effects could come back to humans as they ate the produce they had 
infected with bad vibrations. Thus the whole cycle could become vi¬ 
ciously descending, leading to more and more misery, pain, and disease, 
or hopefully ascending, leading to greater joy and greater light. 

Divina says she realized that the most important contribution that 
man can make to a garden—even more important than water or com¬ 
post—is the radiation he puts into the soil while cultivating it, such as 
love, and that every member of a group has something to contribute in 
the way of radiations—strength, happiness, and so on. Everything that 
comes into a human being through inspiration of one sort or another 
goes out again modified in wavelength, tone, and timber by the will of 
the person involved; he or she can improve the quality of what is sent 
out and increase the brilliance of its wavelength. 

At the same time Divina realized that the soil and plants are con¬ 
stantly being affected by radiations from the earth itself and from the 



cosmos, each of which contributes to its fertility, without which both 
soil and plants would be sterile; these radiations, she realized, were more 
fundamental than chemical elements or microbiotic organisms, radia¬ 
tions that are subject fundamentally to the mind of man. Man appeared 
to have the role of a demi-god; by cooperating with nature he might find 
no limit to what could be achieved on this planet. 

In the spring of 1967 Elixir—who still received the overall policy 
guidance for the venture—was told that the garden was to be extended 
even further and made into a place of beauty with the planting of many 
kinds of flowers. The center was to be expanded and new bungalows 
built. The vision she had first received on arriving at Findhorn was now 
beginning to materialize. Money for neat cedarstrip bungalows turned 
up as if by miracle, and the bungalows were soon surrounded by impec¬ 
cable flower gardens. 

In 1968, when Findhorn was visited by a number of accomplished 
gardeners and agricultural experts, they were amazed at what they 
found, remarking they had never seen such a uniformly high standard 
in all sections of a garden. The growth and color of the flowers in the 
new herbaceous borders were so remarkable that the visitors were at a 
loss to explain the phenomena, considering the poverty of the soil and 
the rigorous northern climate. When Sir George Trevelyan, who for 
twenty-four years had run the famed Adult Education Foundation at 
Attingham, dropped in at Easter he was amazed by the quality of the 
daffodils and narcissi growing in beds crowded with shorter flowers, all 
as beautiful and large as he had ever seen, their brilliant colors of a 
scintillating quality. He found the root vegetables the best he had ever 
tasted, and was surprised to find fruit trees of all sorts in blossom, as well 
as a vigorous young chestnut standing eight feet high among broad¬ 
leaved trees and shrubs thriving on the landward slope of windswept 

As a member of the Soil Association, with an interest in the organic 
method. Sir George said he had seen enough to know that compost and 
straw mulch alone mixed with poor and sandy soil were not enough to 
account for such a garden. There must, said he, be some Factor X to 
be taken into consideration, adding that if so much could be accom- 

Findhom and the Garden of Eden 369 


. i i 

plished at Findhorn in such a short time the Sahara could be made to 

In June of 1968, Miss Armine Wodehouse, of the Radionic Associa¬ 
tion, who ran a commercial truck garden in Wales for twenty years 
visited Findhorn and was amazed at the lush crops she found, especially 
when she noted the pure sand thinly spread with compost and the 
powerful winds that swept uninterruptedly across the garden. She felt 
the strawberry plants would arouse the admiration of any gardener, and 
was surprised to find moisture-loving asters and primulas, which are 
notoriously thirsty, thriving in such soil. 

Mrs. Elizabeth Murray, an independent organic gardener and mem¬ 
ber of the Soil Association, who visited Findhorn in July of 1968, felt 
that the radiant health of the trees, flowers, fruit, and vegetables was far 
beyond the ordinary. She felt the compost was of such poor quality when 
mixed with sand that it could not explain the superb produce, which for 
size, quality, and flavor was superior to anything she had ever seen 
anywhere. She too was sure that such results could not have been 
attained on such barren soil simply by good husbandry and compost. 

Lady Mary Balfour, sister of Lady Eve, who describes herself as an 
“ordinary gardener of the organic school/' spent twenty-four hours at 
Findhorn in September of 196S and wrote: “The weather throughout 
was grey and at times wet. Yet in retrospect I can see that garden in 
brilliant sunshine without a cloud in the sky, which must be due to the 
extraordinary brilliance of the blooming flowers I saw there. The flower 
beds were all a compact mass of color." 

Lady Cynthia Chance, a follower of Rudolf Steiner's Biodynamic 
farming methods, was astounded when Peter Caddy told her he did not 
need to apply Steiner’s methods, that he had a more direct spiritual way 
of obtaining the same results. A United Nations agricultural expert and 
professor of agriculture at various universities, Professor R. Lindsay 
Robb, when he visited Findhorn just before Christmas went on record 
to say that the vigor, health and bloom of the plants in the garden at 
midwinter on land which is almost a barren powdery sand cannot be 
explained by the moderate dressings of compost, nor indeed by the 
application of any known cultural methods of organic husbandry. There 
are other factors and they are vital ones.” 



j At which point Peter Caddy broke down and let out to Sir George 
j Trevelyan the secret of their success at Findhorn. He said that Dorothy 
; Maclean, or Divina, had managed to get into direct contact with the 
devas or angelic creatures who control the nature spirits that are said by 
clairvoyants to be everywhere at work nurturing plant life. Sir George, 

; an advanced student of the arcane, of astrology and the hermetic 
sciences, admitted he was aware that a number of sensitives claimed to 
1 be in touch with the devic world and to be working with it, that Rudolf 
j Steiner had founded his Biodynamic methods on such knowledge. Far 
i from scoffing at Caddy s explanation, he was prepared to give it credence 
and to validate it by suggesting that conscious investigation of such 
worlds is of the utmost importance to our understanding of life, and 
especially our understanding of the life of plants. 

In short order Peter Caddy put out a series of pamphlets describing 
; the true nature of the experiments at Findhorn. Divina contributed 
i detailed descriptions of the messages she said she received directly from 
; devas, of which she described whole hierarchies responsible for every 
| fruit and vegetable, for every flower and weed. Here was a Pandora’s box 
| more phenomenal than the one opened in New York by Backster. 

; Findhorn quickly developed into a community of over a hundred 
; disciples. Young spiritual leaders turned up to preach the gospel of a 
; New Age, and a college was founded in the community to teach the 
tenets of this New Age. What had started as a miraculous little garden 
appeared to be turning into a true center of light for the Aquarian Age, 
visited annually from every continent of the globe. 

| Parting the veil into other worlds and other vibrations beyond the 
limits of the electromagnetic spectrum may well go a long way to explain 
the mysteries which are incomprehensible to physicists who limit their 
looking to what they can see with their physical eyes and their instru¬ 
ments. In the more ethereal world of the clairvoyant, who claims to have 
mastered the art of ethenc and astral vision, a whole new series of vistas 
opens up around plants and their relation to man, to the earth, and to 
the cosmos. The growth of seeds and plants, as Paracelsus intimated, 
may indeed be affected very strongly by the position of the moon, the 

positions of the planets, their relation to the sun and to the other stars 
of the firmament. 

Findhorn and the Garden of Eden 371 

Fechner’s animistic vision of plants being ensouled becomes less of 
a wild conceit, as does Goethe’s concept of a prototype plant. Burbank’s 
knowledge that whatever man wishes he can produce with the aid of 
nature or Carver's insistence that nature spirits abound in the woods and 
take part in the growth of plants may have to be reviewed in the light 
of the discoveries of the Theosophists and especially of such extraordi¬ 
nary seers of nature spirits as Geoffrey Hodson. The ancient wisdom, as 
detailed by seers like Mesdames Helena P. Blavatsky and Alice A. Bailey, 
throws quite another light on the energy of bodies, both of humans and 
of plants, as well as the relation of individual cells to the entire cosmos. 

The secret behind Pfeiffer’s Biodynamic compost, which has been 
proved so highly effective scientifically, turns out to be a homeopathic 
wonder based on a fairyland creation of Rudolf Steiner's organic brews 
made by burying cow horns filled with cow dung and deer bladders filled 
with nettles and camomile leaves. Steiner’s anthroposophy, or Spiritual 
Science, throws such a light on plant life and agriculture as to make 
scientists root in their tracks. 

Aesthetically, the world of the devas and the nature spirits turns 
out to be even more full of color and sound and perfume than the 
creations of Scriabin and Wagner, their gnomes, nymphs, and un¬ 
dines, their fire, water, earth, and air spirits closer to reality than the 
Holy Grail and the eternal quest it engendered. As Dr. Aubrey 
Westlake, author of Pattern of Health , describes our imprisoned 
state, we are locked in a “valley of materialistic concepts, refusing to 
believe there is anything other than the physical-material world of 
our five senses. For we, like the inhabitants of the country of the 
blind, reject those who claim to have ‘seen’ with their spiritual vi¬ 
sion the greater supersensible world in which we are immersed, dis¬ 
missing such claims as ‘idle fancies’ and advancing far ‘saner’ scien¬ 
tific explanations.” 

The attraction of the seer’s supersensible world, or worlds within 
worlds, is too great to forgo, and the stakes too high, for they may 
include survival for the planet. Where the modern scientist is baffled by 
the secrets of the life of plants, the seer offers solutions which, however 


incredible, make more sense than the dusty mou things of academicians; 
'hat is more, they give philosophic meaning to the totality of life. This 
ipersensible world of plants and man, only touched on in this volume, 
'ill be explored in another, The Cosmic Life of Plants. 


Findhom and the Garden of Eden 373 


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“What Noise Does to Plants.” Science Digest, Dec. 1970, p. 61. 

Wheaton, Frederick Warner. “Effects of Various Electrical Fields on Seed 

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Wheeler, F. J. The Bach Remedies Repertory. Ashingdon, Rochford, Essex, 
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Whicher, Olive, and Adams, George. Plant, Sun and Earth. Stuttgart: Verlag 
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White, John W. “Plants, Polygraphs and Paraphysics.” Psychic, vol. IV, no. 2, 
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Wickson, Edward J. Luther Burbank, Man, Methods and Achievements. San 
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“The Wonderful World of Plants.” Za Rubezhom, no. 15, April 7-13, 1972, 
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Wrench, G. T. The Wheel of Health. New York: Schocken Books, 1972. 

Yogananda, Paramahansa. Autobiography of a Yogi. New York: Rider, 1950. 



Abrams, Albert, 317-23, 333-8, 344, 


Academy of Pedagogical Sciences 

(U.S.S.R.), 206 

Academy of Sciences (Fr.), 171, 186 
Academy of Sciences (ILS<), 55, 187 
Academy of Sciences (U.S.S.R.), 66, 73, 


Acres USA , 272 

Adamenko, Viktor, 203, 205, 207 
Afghanistan, 224-6 
Africa, 189, 256, 314, 356 
Agricultural Chemicals , 328 
Agricultural Testament (Howard), 234, 

agriculture, see specific subjects 

Albrecht, William, 221, 223, 239 

Allen, Floyd, 267 

Allen, Judith, 248 

American College of Surgeons, 188 

American Indians, 24, 356 

American Medical Association, 254-5, 


American Organization of Agricultural 
Chemists, 263 
Ames Research Center, 53 
Anchor College of Truth, 60-61 
Andrews, Donald Hatch, 161 
Angushev, Georgi, 70 
animats, 314-15, "electricity,” 4, 169-70, 
196; as food, 250-1, 305-6, 375; 
geomagnetism and, 209-10, 288-9; 
health, fertilizers and, 220ff.; health, 
nutrition and, 224-5, 227-8, 231, 
238-9, 250-1; “magnetism,” 170-2, 
188, 196, 209, 335; manures, see 
Composting; Fertilizers, organic; 
mummification and dehydration, 

299; pesticides and, 252, tissues, 
parallels to, 85ff.; transmutation of 
elements, 275-6 
animism, 14, 121fL, 372 
anthroposophy, 372 
Argosy , 18 

Aristotle, ix, 105, 113, 164, 234 
Arizona Farmer, 328 

Armstrong, Howard, 325-32, 338-9 
Army (U.S,)> 40 
Association for Research and 
Enlightenment, 65 
Atlantic Electronics Ltd,, 52 
atomic physics, 280fF 
Audus, L J , 182 
auras, 172, 200-13, 352 
Aurea Catena, 118 
Austen, Sir Robert, 88 
Australia, 255 
Austria, 97, 102, 170-1 
Aviation Week and Space Technology, 

Babylonia, 105 
Bach, Edward, 307-11 
Backster, Cleve, 3-19, 21, 27, 28, 33-4, 
37, 40-3, 47, 48, 56-8, 60, 66-71, 

Bagnall, Oscar, 352 
Bailey, A. R,, 73-4 
Bailey, Alice A., 372 
Bailey, Liberty Hyde, 131, 176 
Balfour, Lady Eve, 230-1, 233, 239 
Balfour, Lady Mary, 370 
Baltimore Sun, 8 
Baranger, Pierre, 278-80 
Barmakian, Richard, 290-1 
Barr, James, 322 
Bastin, Edward, 359 
Beausoleit, Baron de, 296 
Beebe, William, 235 
Bell, Allan, 42 
Belov, I., 202-3 
Belton, Peter, 150-1 
Benjamin, R. M., 328 
Bergson, Henri, 101, 196 
Berthelot, Pierre, 189-90 
Bertholon, Abbe, 168-9, 173, 179 
Bertrand, Didier, 280-1 
Best, Connie, 360 
biochemistry, 275ff. 
biodynamics, 243, 263-b, 268, 288, 

Bio-Dynamics y 245 

Bioelectric Fields and Growth (Lund), 

Biological Essence of the Kirlian Effect 
(Inyushin), 203 

Biological Transmutations (Kervan) 281 
288, 290-1 

bioluminescence, 201 ff. 
biometre, 300-1 
bioplasma, 41, 203ff., 357 
biorhythms, 163-4, 197 
Bishopp, F. C. 328-30 
Bismarck, 352 

Blavatsky, Helena P., 113, 372 
Bloch, Felix, 331-2 
Boehme, Jakob, 25, 45, 110 
Bondurant, William M., 15 
Book of the Secrets of Enoch, 161 
Borgstrom, Georg, 237-8 
Bock, Hieronymus, 105 

Bose, Jagadis Chandra, 78, 82-103 122 
137, 140, 187 
Botanical Gazette , 94 
botany, 104ff. 

Bovis, Andre, 299-303, 306, 323 
Bradley, C. W., 52 

Breakthrough to Creativity (Karagulla), 

^ 10 

breeding plant, 65ff,, 229; burbanking, 

127ff,; cross-pollination, 126; seed 
diagnosis, 196 

British Association for the Advancement 
of Science, 84, 86 
British Medical Journal, 225, 322 
British Society of Dowsers, 74 
Broglie, Louis-Victor de, 287, 303 
Broman, Francis F., 153-4, 157 
Brongniart, Adolphe Theodore, 107 
Brunton, Sir Lander, 96-7 
Buchholz, Wilhelm H. S., 110 
Burbank, Luther, 60, 127-34, 238, 372 
Burdon-Sanderson, Sir John, 88-9 
Burr Harold Saxton, 16, 195-7, 199, 

Bush, Vannevar, 332 
Butler, Robert N., 308 
Byerly, T. C., 219 
Byrd, Eldon, 40-2 

Caddy, Peter and Elixir (Euleen) 

362-71 ' 

Caesalpinus, Andreas, 105 
California, 266—7 
California Psychical Society, 27 
Calvin, Melvin, 76 

Camerarius, Rudolf Jakob, 105, 108 
Campbell, John, 350 

Canada, 150-3, 182, 301, 338, 353-5 
Canadian Journal of Botany, 152 
Canby, Eugene, 148 

Carson, Rachel, 232, 253 
Carver, George Washington, 136-42 
217, 250, 372 
Cayce, Edgar, 65, 139 
Cazzamalli, Federico, 57 
cellular consciousness, 11—14 
Center for Bio-Energetic Analysis, 


Century Magazine f 152-3 
Cerminara, Gina, 21 
Chance, Lady Cynthia, 370 
chemistry, 173, 274-91 
Chertkov, V., 63-4 
China, 205, 228, 291, 281, 358 
Christian Crusade Weekly, 157 
chromatography, 244-5, 263-4 
Ciba Foundation Symposium, 58 
classification, botanical, 105, 108, 162 
Closing Circle (Commoner), 220-1 
Cobbett, William, xiv 
Cocannouer, Joseph A., 237-8 
College of Universal Wisdom, 57-8 
color, xiii, xiv, 119; auras, 204, 207- 
therapy, 190; see also Light 
Commoner, Barry, 220-1, 287, 291 
communication, plants and, 9-10 22ff 
37, 55, 57, 59, 132^4, 136-7; " 

biological, 47fL; cellular, 11-14, 68, 
198-9; conversation, plant-human,’ 
42-4; devices operation, 34ff.; 
electrical energy and, 186-8 198-9 
^SP ” 5ff„ 18ff„ 28-9, 32, 34ff„ ’ 
40ff„ 58-9, 67ff„ 132-3,211-12; 
extraterrestrial (CETI), 47ff., 60-2; 
Findhorn community as working 
example of, 361-71; interaction, 
25-8; negativity and, 24; 
parapsychology and, 57ff.; 
plant-plant, 73-4, 124, 352-3- 
remote, 9-11, 15, 37fF„ 47ff„ will 
and/or prayer, effect of, 19-20 

Comparative Anatomy of the Ansels 
(Fechner), 122 

Comparative Electro-Physiology (Bose), 

composting, 229, 243, 257, 262, 268, 


conditioned reflex, 69 

Cortaro Management Co., 323, 325 

Cosmic Energy, 24 

counting, by plants, 43-4 

Cox, H. Len, 182—4 

crescograph, 98-9, 101 

Crile, George Washington, 188, 195, 

197, 320, 332 
Crooks, Sir William, 88 
Crops and Soils Magazine, 182 
crystallization patterns, 243-^f 

394 INDEX 

Curtis, Olga, 156-7 
Czechoslovakia, 350-1 

Daniels, Rexford, 298-9, 358 
Dark Ages, 105 

d'Arsonval, Jacques Arsene, 186 
Dart, R. Williams, 44—5 
Darwin, Charles, ix, x, xii, 6, 88, 97, 
109, 113, 116, 119, 125-9, 145-6, 

DDT, 249, 252, 255, 270 
Dean, Douglas, 8, 208-9 
death: of plants, 94, 97; response to, II, 
13-14, 68, 198-9, 318 
de Boer, Wilhelm, 351-2 
De La Warr, George and Marjorie, 


de Loach, Ethel, 208-9 
De Materia Medica (Dioscorides), 105 
Denmark, 171 
Denver Post, 156-7 
Department of: Agriculture, 60, 152, 
254, 268, 291, 327-31; Health, 
Education and Welfare, 254-5 
De Sauer, Professor, 318 
De Sexu Plantorum Epistula 
(Camerarius), 105 
D’EsIon, Charles, 171 
devices operated through plants, 34ff. 

De Vries, Hugo, 127-8 
dew, 310 
Dioscorides, 105 

diseases: human, see Health, human; 
Medicine and medical profession; 
plant, see Pests and diseases 
Dougherty, James Francis, 43 
Douglas, William O,, 253 
dowsing, 295-316; auras and, 352; 

communication with universal force 
298-9; foods, 299ff. ; herbal healing 
and, 306-14; map, 298; minerals, 
296fL; object location, 298; 
radiation pattern, 351-2; sensor 
area, body, 302; thought and, 350 
Drake, Frank, 52-3 
Driesch, Hans, 196 
Drown, Ruth, 333, 355 
Dubrov, A. P. f 288-9 

earthworms, 234-5 

ecology, 60, 74-6, 217ff., 237-9, 25Iff., 
267ff see also subjects 
Edison, Thomas A,, 141 
Edwards, Charles C. T 256 
Effects of Cross and Self Fertilisation in 
the Vegetable Kingdom (Darwin), 

eggs, galvanometry and, 15-16, 29-30 
Egypt, 281, 295, 299, 300 

Einstein, Albert, 102, 283 
elan vital, 196 
Electrician, 84 

electricity, 4, 59-60, 164ff,, I78ff .; see 
also Radiation; subjects 
Electro Cultur (Lemstrom), 176 
Electroculture Corp., 183 
electromagnetism, 163-77, 187ff.; 

dowsing, 295ff. ; eloptic energy and, 
336; see also Radiation; subjects 
Electronics World, 56, 57 
electrophysiology, 85ff. 
electrovegetometer, 168-9 
Eliot, George, 60 
eloptic energy, 336ff. 

Elster, Julius, 174 
E-meter, 29-30 

emotions: human, 31-2, 353, 358; plant 
reactions, see Communication, 
“ESP”; of plants, 11, 13-14, 59, 

endocrine centers or chakras, 357-8 
energy, see specific forms, subjects 
England, see United Kingdom 
entelechy, 196 

environment: autoregulation, 64-8, 123; 
awareness of, xi-x, xiii-xiv, 3ff.; 
22-3, 28, 40, 57, 59, 65; see also 
specific subjects 

ESP, see Communication; Psychics; 

Thought, human 
Esser, Aristide H., 8-9 
Estebany, Oskar, 353 
etheric body (bioplasma), 41, 203ff., 

Evelyn Wood Foundation, 195 
evolution, 11 Iff., 125ff. 

Ewell, Raymond, 258 
Exultation of Flowers, 313-15 

“fainting,” 7-8, 41 
Fairchild, David, 131 
faith healers, 208-9, 353 
Faraday, Michael, 171 
Farm Bureau: Ohio, 330; Pennsylvania, 

Farrelly, Frances, 350-2, 355 
Fechner, Gustav Theodor, 120—6, 134 
Federal Trade Commission, 234 
Fedorov, Lev, 202 

Fertilization of Orchids (Darwin), 126 
fertilizers: ash theory, 223; chemical, 
inorganic, 60, 217ff., 232, 235, 241, 
260-1, 267-8, 285, 287; 
earthworms, 234-5; ecology and, 60, 
217ff., 237-9, 251 ff., 267-8; health, 
human and animal, and, 218, 220F., 
238-9; microorganisms, 235, 251-2; 
organic (see r*fso Composting; 

Index 395 

fertilizers (cotit’d) 

Organic agriculture), 137-8, 219, 

227ff., 243, 251, 256-7, 261 ff. 

Fetisov, V. M., 70-1 

Findhorn (Scotland), 361-71 

Finland, 175-6 

Fliess, Wilhelm, 197 

Fontes, Randall, 32 

Food and Drug Administration, 250, 

254-6, 267, 333 

Food, Farming and the Future (Sykes), 


food, human, viii-ix, 68, I26ff., 138-9, 
364ff.; health and, 139, 224ff., 231, 
234, 238-9, 241ff., 253ff., 268, 

272-3, 285, 290-1; meats, chemicals 
and, 250-1; meats, dowsing, 305-6; 
dowsing, 300ff.; minerals and trace 
elements, 238, 243, 246ff., 251, 256, 
290-1; organic, 139, 224ff., 231, 

234, 238ff„ 253ff., 261, 266-7, 

270-1, 354ff.; pesticides and, 249, 

253, 255; processed, 245-50, 255-6; 

production, see Productivity; 

proteins, 250-2; vitamins, 225, 

243ff., 256 

force fields, 172, 200-13, 357; see also 
Auras; Radionics; subjects 
Ford, Frank, 261 
Ford, Henry, 141 

Formation of Vegetable Mould through 
the Action of Worms (Darwin), 


formative forces, 243-4 

forms, metamorphosis of, 11 Iff., 161-2 

Foster, Sir Michael, 87 

Foundation for Study of Consciousness, 

350, 356 t 

Fourth State of Matter (Grishchenko), 


France, 55, 86, 101—2, 107, 116, 166—71, 
184-6, 189-90, 196, 221-2, 236, 
275-88, 291, 295-307, 311 
France, Raoul, ix-xi, xiii-xiv, 108 
Franklin, Benjamin, 167, 171, 175 
Freud, Sigmund, 124, 197 
Fryer, Lee, 268 
Funk, Casimir, 225 
Furon, Rene, 288 

Galvani, Luigi, 4, 169-70, 195-6, 209, 

galvanometry: eggs, 15-16, 29—30; plants, 
3ff., 21ff., 32, 40ff., 65, polarity 
changes, 41 

Gardeners’Chronicle, 174 
Gardini, Professor, 167-8 
Garner, John, 140 
Gassner, J. J, 170 

Gauss, Karl Friedrich, 51 
Geddes, Patrick, 99-100 
Geitel, Hans, 174 
Geller, Uri, 359-60 
genetics, 127 

geomagnetism, see Gravity; Polarity and 

Germany, 55, 97, 105-25, 161-2, 166, 
172-4, 196, 223, 277-8, 323-5, 343 
germination, 282; lunar cycle and, 197, 
282; orientation and, 182, 351; 
psychic energy and, 351—2; radiation 
and, 59-60, 173-4; radionics and, 
346-7, 351-2 
giantism, 189-90 

Gilbert, William, 165, 166, 170, 172, 

184, 277 

Gilgit Agency (Afghanistan), 224-6 
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von, x, 

109-19, 120, 162, 174, 245, 291, 


Goldstein, Norman, 32 
Goodavage, Joseph F., 53 
Graber, Glenn, 268—72 
Grad, Bernard, 353-5 
Grass (Soloukhin), 72-5, 236 
gravity, 166, 182; levity, 117-18; 
radiation of metals and, 334; see 
also Polarity and orientation 
Great Britain, see United Kingdom 
Greece, Ancient, 105, 161, 164, 172-3, 

Green well, Sir Bernard, 230 
Gregory, William, 172 
Grishchenko, V, S., 204 
Gres, Charles, 51 
Gross, Henry, 298 
Gross, Henry M., 326-32 
growth, 97-9, 101; direction tendencies, 
116—18; fertilizers, see Fertilizers; 
tight spectrum and, 189ff.; 
metamorphosis, 11 Iff., 161-2; 
parapsychology and, 59-60; 
photography, time-lapse, l88ff.; 
radiation and, 59-60, 167ff., 178ff., 
I87ff; radionics and, 344ff.; sound 
waves and, 59-60, 145ff.; thought 
and/or prayer and, 19-20, 348ff.; 
see also Productivity 
Gunar, Ivan Isidorevich, 64-5, 72, 76-7 
Gurwitsch, Alexander, 54-5, 187, 188, 
195, 197-9, 204, 318 

Haeckel, Ernst, 109 
Hagaseth, Gaylord T., 152 
Hahnemann, Christian Samuel, 323-5 
Halacy, D. S., 173 
Halbleib, Ernest, 267-8 
Hale, William J., 329 

396 INDEX 

Hall, Manly P., 133 

Hals, Jorgen, 51 

Hanni, Eldore, 267 

Hapgood, Charles H. t 356 

Harmonia Plantarum (Kayser), 161-2 

Harrell, Alvin M., 61 

Hart, Don, 265-6 

Harvalik, Zaboj V., 297, 298, 302, 352 
Hashimoto, Ken, 42^4 
Hashimoto, Mrs. Ken, 43 
Hauschka, Rudolf, 245, 281-2, 324 
Hay, Randall Groves, 180 
Health Finder (Rodale), 234 
health, human: auras and, 204, 21 Off.; 
biorhythms, 197; dowsing, 306; 
fertilizers, commercial, and, 218, 

220; light spectrum and, 189fF.; 
nutrition and, see Food, human; 
ovulation detection, 196; pesticides 
and, 249, 253, 255; psychic research 
and, 30-1; resistance to disease, 

306, 309; respiration, 31; see also 
Medicine and medical professions 
Hell, Maximilian, 4, 170 
Helmont, Jan Baptista, 276 
Henry, Joseph, 171 
herbal healing, 306-14, 324-5 
Herder, Johann G. von, 114 
Hermes, Trismegistus, 161 
Hertz, Heinrich Rudolph, 83^4 
Hienton, Truman, 327, 329-30 
Hieronymus, Louise, 339-41 
Hieronymus, T. Galen, 333-44, 350, 

351, 35506 
Hill, W. B„ 137 
Hindus, 22-3, 32, 357-8 
Hinze, Phillip M., 272-3 
Hodson, Geoffrey, 372 
Hoffman, Samuel O., 321-2 
homeopathy, 323-5 
Homeotronic Foundation, 329, 338 
Horst, Miles, 328 
Howard, Albert, 226-39, 242, 291 
Howes, T. K., 89-90 
Hoyle, Fred, 286 
Huang, B. H., 157-8 
Hubbard, L. Ron, 29, 56-7 
Hungary, 170, 246, 353 
Hunzas, 224-6 
Huxley, Julian, 102, 145-6 

hybridization, 126ff. 
hypnotic control of plants, 8, 28 

India, 77-8, 81-103 passim, 146-8, 160, 
224-30, 312, 314-15 
Indian Journal of Medical Research, 226 
individuality, 21, 132-3, 345 
Institute of: 

Agrophysics (Leningrad), 66-8 

Automation and Electrometry 

(U.S.S.R.), 197-8 

Clinical and Experimental Medicine 
(Novosibirsk), 197, 199 
Plant Industry (Indore), 228-9 
Research (Calcutta), 82, 98, 102-3 
Integration, 57-8 
intent, capability of, xi 
Interference Consultants Co., 298 
International Congress of Physics, 86 
International Journal of Parapsychology^ 

14, 353 

International Radionics Association, 338 
intoxication, 94 

Invisible Radiation of Organisms (Rahn), 

Inyushin, Vladimir, 203-5 
Ioffe, Abram Feodorovich, 66 
ionization, 343-4 
irritability, 85ff. 

Italy, 57, 109-11, 114-15, 167-70, 181, 
186, 281 
Izvestiya, 66-7 

James, William, 124 
apan, 42^4, 288, 291 
eans, Sir James, 56 
ohnson, Ed, 61 
Johnson, Kendall, 207-8 
Journal of: 

Acoustical Society of America, 158 
Horticultural Society (G.B.), 174 
Parapkysics (G.B ), 208 
Society for Psychical Research, 353 
ulsrud, Waldemar, 356 
\ usta Smith, Sister M., 209 

Karagulla, Shafica, 210 

Karamanov, Vladimir Grigorievich, 66-8 

Karlsson, L., 41 

Kayser, Hans, 161-2 

Keefer, Robert F., 238-9 

Keller, Helen, 133 

Kepler, Johannes, 161-2 

Kervan, Louis, 274-7, 280-91, 301 

Khimiya i Xhizn (Chemistry and Life), 76 

Kilner, Walter, 352 

Kirlian, Semyon Davidovich, 199, 201-3, 

Kylian, Valentina, 201-3 
Kleuter, H. H., 349 

Knuth, William J., 323, 325-32, 338-9 

Kohl, Daniel H., 220 

Komaki, Hisatoki, 288 

Kopp, J. A., 302 

Korol’kov, P. A., 289 

Krippner, Stanley, 206, 207 

Krylov, A. V., 182 

Kulagina, Nina, 30, 206 

Index 397 

Lakhovsky, Georges, 184-8, 301, 306, 

Lamarck, Jean, 109 
Lambert, Albert and Mrs., 297 
Langman, Louis, 196 
Latscha Filialbetriebe, 270 
Lavoisier, A. L„ 275-6, 281, 283 
Lawrence, L. George, 35, 46-51, 53-62, 
151, 187 

League of Nations Committee on 
Intercultural Cooperation, 102 
Lebedinskii, A. V,, 77 
Lehrs, Ernst, 111-13, 117-18 
Lemonnier, Pierre Charles, 167, 174 
Lemstrom, Selim, 175-7, 183 
Lenin, 289-90 
Lepinte, Christian, 110 
Lewis, Myrna I., 308 
Libby, Willard F., 332 
Liebeg, Baron Justus von, 223-4 
Life, 333 
life-fields, 196-7 
Life Force, 24 

light, 118-19, 189; flashes, plant, 174; 
frequencies and effects of, 189ff.; 
response to, 57, 64, 92; sun, 
biorhythm and, 163—4 
Linnaeus (von Linne), Carl, ix, 108, 162 
Linnean Society, 90-1 
Lipsett, Mortimer, 250 
Literatumaya Gazette, 75 
Little Book of Life After Death 
(Fechner), 121-2 
Lloyd George, David, 296 
Locker, Arthur, 148 
Lodge, Sir Oliver, 102, 186, 183 
Loehr, Franklin, 349 
Lombard, Jean, 287-8 
Low Energy Transmutations (Kervan), 

Lund, E. J., 187 
Lundberg brothers, 266-7 

Maclean, Dorothy (Divina), 362, 368-71 
MacLean, Gordon, 298 
magnetism, 164-7, 209-10; dowsing, 
296ff,, 351-2; radiation of metals 
and, 334-5; see also Animal (s); 
magnetism; Polarity and orientation 
Mairan, Jean-Jacques D. de, 163-5 
malevolence, 355-6 
Man or Matter (Lehrs), 111-13 
Mangeldorf and Bros., Inc., 149 
Marconi, Guglielmo, 48, 84, 98 
Marine, Gene, 248 

Mary Reynold Babcock Foundation, 15 
Matin, Le, 101-2 

matter: forms, Yogic, 357-8, nature and 
creation of, 275ff. 

Matveyev, M., 66-8 
Maxwell, James Clerk, 83-4 
Mayer, Jean, 255 
Mayron, Lewis W., 195 
McCarrison, Sir Robert, 224-6, 230-1. 
238-9, 242 

McGarey, William, 65 
Mclnnes, Alick, 311-16 
McKibben, E. G., 181 
Measures, Mary, 151-2, 157 
Medical World News, 14-15 
medicine and medical professions, 139; 
acupuncture, 205; diagnostic 
techniques, 196, 199, 204, 21Off., 
297, 317ff,, 333, dowsing, 296-7, 
302, 306ft; faith healers, 208-9; 
herbal healing, 306-14, 324-5; 
homeopathy, 323-5; ionization, 
343-4; mesmerism, 170-1; nutrition 
and disease, 224ft, 239, 241 ft, 
353-6, 290-1; pathoclast, 334; 
pesticides, 253; radiation, pathology 
and, 318-23; radiobiology, • 186—8; 
sound therapy, 308; see also Health, 

memory, 9, 68-9, 72 
Mendel, Johann, 127 
Mendeleyev, Dmitri, 275 
mental energy, see Thought, human 
Merkulov, A., 68-9 
Merta, Jan, 59, 209-10, 301, 303-4 
Mesmer, Franz Anton, 19, 170-1, 188, 
195-6, 209 

Messegue, Maurice, 311 
metals: electricity and, 169-71; molecular 
reaction, 85ft; radiation, eloptic, 

metamorphosis of plants, II Iff., 161-2 
Mexico, 356 

microorganisms, 235, 251—2, 284-6, 288 
microscopy, 20 
Midwest, 218-21, 267-8 
Miller, Howard, 11 
Miller, Robert N., 349-50 
Milstein, George, 158-9 
Mind and Matter, 348 
minerals and trace elements: dowsing, 
295ft; nutrition, 238, 243, 246ft, 
251, 256, 290-1; transmutation, 

mitogenetic radiation, 54-5, 318 
Molisch, Hans, 102 
Molitorisz, Joseph, 178-9 
Monteith, Henry C., 207 
Montelbono, Tom, 26 
moon: cycle, effects of, 197, 282; 

radiation belt, 339-40 
morphology, 11 Iff., 161-2 
Moss, Thelma, 203-8, 213 

398 INDEX 

movement, ix-x, xi, 123, 125; growth 
measurement, 98-9, 101; 
mechanical, 91 ft; tropistic, 99-100, 
125, 155-6 

Murr, Larry E., 179-80 
Murray, Elizabeth, 370 
Museum of Science and Industry 
(Chicago), 165-6 

music: plants and, 145-62 passim , 
therapy, 308; see also Sound(s) 

Nanna, or the Soul-Life of Plants 
(Fechner), 121, 122, 124, 125 
Nation (British), 97 
National Aeronautics and Space 
Administration, 53 
National Plant Food Institute, 220 
National Wildlife, 14 
Natural Food Associates, 253-5 
Natural Transmutations (Kervan), 287 
Nature, 85, 95-6, 102, 182 
nature as teacher, 134, 141-2, 238 
Nature et Progres, 287 
Nature of Substance (Hauschka), 281-2 
Nauka i Religiya (Science and Religion), 

Nauka i Zhizn (Science and Life), 72 
Naumov, Edward, 206 
Navy (U.S.), 40 
Nebel, Long John, 33-34 
Neiman, V. B., 289 
Nelson, Elmer, 226 
nervous breakdown, 56, 58-9 
nervous systems, 32, 65-6, 71-2, 93ff., 
122, 12506, 187 
Netherlands, 127, 167 
New Alchemy Institute, 273 
New Creations in Fruits and Flowers 
(Burbank), 126-7 
Newman, John, 176-7 
New Statesman, 100-1 
New York Times, 159-60 
Nichols, Joe, 219-20, 241-58, 262, 


Nichols, W. S., 325 

nitrogen fertilizers, 60, 218-21, 239; see 
also Fertilizers 

Nollet, Abbe Jean Antoine, 166-8, 173, 

North Carolina State University, 157-8 
North Carolina, University of, 152 
Northrop, F. S. C., 195-6 
Norway, 51 
nuclear physics, 280ff. 

Odyle, Od, or odic force, 172-3, 188 
Oersted, Hans Christian, 171 
On the Causes of Plants (Theophrastus), 

On the History of Plants (Theophrastus), 

“On the Metamorphosis of Plants’’ 
(Goethe), 115-16 

organic agriculture, 137-9, 241ff., 227ff., 
25Iff., 259fL; Findhorn community, 
364ff.; see also subjects 
Organic Gardening and Farming, 60, 

234, 241, 267, 291 
orgone energy, 29, 173, 283 
orientation, see Polarity and orientation 
Origine de la Vie, L' (Lakhovsky), 


Origin of Inorganic Substances (von 
Herzeele), 277-8 
Origin of Species (Darwin), 125 
Osborn, Fairfield, 290 
oscilloclast, 321-2, 344 
Osteopathic Physician, 209 
Ostrander, Sheila, 203 
Ott, John, 164 
Ott, John Nash, 189—95 

Panishkin, Leonid A., 64—5 
Paracelsus, 110, 170, 307-10, 371 
Parapsychological Association, 58 
parapsychology, 57ff., 206ff,; see also 

Parapsychology Foundation, Inc., 12-13 
pathoclast, 334 
Pathometric Association, 334 
Pavlov, Ivan, 69, 70 

perception, primary, 6, 14, 34ff.; see also 

pests and diseases, 227, 241, 286; organic 
agriculture and, 227ff,, 252, 268-9; 
pesticides, chemical, 229, 249, 
252-3, 255, 267—8, 270; radiation 
and, 182ff., 198-9; radionics and, 
323, 325-33, 338-9, 344; ultrasonics 

Pfeffer, Wilhelm, 145-6 
Pfeiffer, Ehrenfried, 243-5, 262-5, 288, 
291, 334, 372 

Phenomena of Life: A Radio-Electrical 
Interpretation (Crile), 188 
Philippines, 237, 249 
photochemistry, 190, 194 
photography: Kirlian, 199, 201-10, 213; 
radionic, 323, 325ff., 344ff.; remote, 
cross-section, 333; time-lapse, 188ff. 
photosynthesis, viii, 76-7, 190, 194 
Physico-Clinical journal, 322 
Picton, Sir Lionel J., 242 
Pierrakos, John, 210-13 
Pip Records, 158-9 
Pittman, U. J., 182, 318 
Plant Response as a Means of Phys¬ 
iological Investigation (Bose), 94 

Index 399 

Plants with Personality (Synge), 189 
Podshibyakin, Anatoli, 205 
polarity and orientation, 118, 166, 

288-9; animals, 209-10, 288-9; 
critical rotational position, 351; 
plants and, xiii, 41, 182, 351; 
dowsing and, 299 
Popenoe, Oliver, 271 
Popular Electronics, 18, 35, 58-60 
Power of Movement in Plants (Darwin), 


Power of Prayer on Plants (Loehr), 349 
/Vovda, 63-4, 72 
prayer, effect of, 348-50 
Prevention , 152, 234 
Priestley, Joseph, 165 
Pringsheim, Peter, 18 
productivity, 237, 258; breeding, plant, 
129ff., 229; electrical energy and, 
176-7, 179ff.; fertilizers, see 
Fertilizers; organic farming, 229, 
232-3, 26Iff., 268, 271-2, 365ff.; 
radionics and, 345ff.; sound and, 
147ff.; symbiosis and, 236-7, 263-4 
products, industrial, 135-42 
Project Cyclops, 53 
Project Ozma, 52-3 
protective devices, xii 
Prout, William, 276 
psi-fields, 58 

psychanalyser, 18 

Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron 

Curtain (Ostrander and Schroeder), 


psychic energy, 19ff. 
psychic research, 30-31, 44-5, 56ff., 
359-60; see also specific aspects 
Psychic Science Temple of Metaphysics, 

psychics; auras and, 172, 206, 208ff.; 
clairvoyance, 362ff.; energy effects, 
30, 359-60; plant response to, 55, 
364ff.; psi-fields, 58; radionics and, 
350ff.; weight loss, 31 
Psycho-Galvanic Response, 30 
psychokinesis, 44, 206, 359-60 
Psychological Stress Evaluator, 42 
psychophysics, 122-3 
Public Health Service, 247-8, 255 
Puharich, Andrija, 359-60 
Purcell, Edward, 331 
Pushkin, V. N., 69-72 
Puthoff, Hal, 29-30 

quality tests, 243-5, 263-4 

radiation, xiii-xiv, 24, 184; auras, 172, 
200—13, 352; biological, 47ff., 184ff.; 
cosmic, 163—4, 166, 173, 185, 191, 

197, 204ff.; diagnostic use, 196, 

199, 204, 210ff, 297, 306, 317ff., 
339-40; dowsing, 295-316; 
electromagnetic, 166ff., 178ff.; 
eloptic, 336ff.; geomagnetic, see 
Gravity; Polarity and orientation; 
light frequencies, 189ff.; "love” and, 
352-3, 358; metals, 334ff.; 
mitogenetic, 54-5, 318; moon, belt 
around, 339-40; pathology and, 
318-23; patterns and nodal points, 
351-2; pest control, 323, 328-32; 
psychic control, 30; radioactivity, 
174, 275, 322; radionics, 317-42, 
344ff.; radio waves, 83ff.; TV, 

139ff see also subjects 
Radiation Control Act, 195 
radiobiology, 186-8 
radio-cellulo-ascillator, 185 
radionics, 317-42, 344ff.; astronauts, 
physiological monitoring, 339-40; 
growth and, 344ff.; human factor 
(see also Thought, human), 336-7, 
348ff.; malevolence, 355-6; metals 
and eloptic energy, 334ff.; pesticide, 
323, 325-33, 338-9; pathology and, 
318—23; space exploration and, 


Rahn, Otto, 187-8, 195, 197, 337 
Ravitz, Leonard J., Jr., 197, 199 
Rayleigh, Lord, 83, 84, 89, 101, 102 
Rayner, M, C., 236 
reaction time, 10-11 
Reader’s Digest, 8 
reflex arc, 93 
reflexophone, 320-21 
Reich, Wilhelm, 29, 3i-2, 172-3, 203, 

Reichenbach, Baron Karl von, 172-3, 


religion, 44-5, 118, 349, 357-8, 22-3 
Religious Research Foundation, 349 
Renaissance, 105, 295-6 
resonating reflex phenomenon, 350-1 
Response in the Living and Non-Living 
(Bose), 78, 91 

Retallack, Dorothy, 153-7, 159-60 

Richards, Guyon, 343-4 

Riccioni, Bindo, 181 

Robb, R. Lindsay, 370 

Roberts, Kenneth, 298 

Rocard, Yves, 296 

Rockwell, R. A., 326-32 

Rodale, J. I., 152, 233-4, 238, 241, 353 

Rodale, Robert, 291 

Roll, W. G., 58 

Roman Empire, 105, 295 

roots, x, 66, 125, 191 

Ropes, Paul, 195 

400 INDEX 

Rose, Mason, 273 
Rosicrucianism, 109, 118, 362 
Ross, Cleon, 159-60 
Ross, William, 173-4 
Royal Society (British), 84, 85, 87-91, 
96-7, 101-2, 139 
Royster, L, H., 157-8 
Russell, E. John, 235 
Russell, E. W , 346 
Russia, see Soviet Union 
Rutherford, Ernest, 275 

Sabarth, Erica, 244-5, 262-3 
Saga, 53 

Salisbury, Frank B-, 160 
Sandes, Captain, 343-4 
San Jose Mercury, 21 
Sapp, Debbie, 25—6 
Saturday Evening Post, 337-8 
Sauvin, Pierre Paul, 33—41, 44—5, 47 
Schaffranke, Rolf, 340 
Schenberg, Christopher von, 296 
Schiller, Johann C. F. von, 116 
Schroeder, Lynn, 203 
Science Advisory Committee, 255-6 
Science et Vie, 278-80, 283 
Science News Letter, 331 
Scientific American, 39, 99, 322, 338 
Scientology, 29-30, 56-7 
Scotland, see United Kingdom 
Scott, Cyril Meir, 161 
Scribner, James Lee, 180-1 
seaweed, agricultural use of, 268-9 
Seeger, Charles, 53 
Seigler, E. W., 330 
selection of plants, 22, 65, 132 
Sergeyev, Genady, 206 
sentience, 125-6 

sex, xii, xiii, 105-8, 125; cross-pollination, 
126; ‘‘ESP,” 29, 38 
Shaw, George Bernard, 97 
Shelley, John, 298 
Shchurin, S. P., 197-9 
Siemens and Halske Electric Co., 55 
Silent Spring (Carson), 232, 253 
Simoneton, Andre, 295, 298-308, 317 
Sims, Fletcher, Jr., 261-5, 268 
Sinclair, Upton, 322 
Singh, Rabindar N., 238-9 
Singh, T. C., 146-8, 149, 151 
Sinyukhin, A. M., 77 
Smith, George E,, 149-51, 153 
Smithsonian Institution, 50 
Society for Psychical Research 
(American), 354 

Society for Psychical Research (British), 

soil, 217-39, 260-1, 269-70, 280-1, 
284ff.; see also subjects 

Soil Association (U.K.), 233, 287, 369 
Soil, Crass and Cancer (Voisin), 221 
Solly, Edward, 174 
Soloukhin, Vladimir, 72-6, 236-7 
souls, plant, ix, I2lff, 372 
Sound of Music and Plants (Retallack), 

sound(s), xiii, 150, 166; atomic, 161; 
growth and, 59-60, 145ff.; pest 
control, 150-1; therapy, 308; 

“voice” of plants, 42-4 
Soviet Union, 30, 35, 41, 53-5, 59-60, 
63-78, 123, 151, 181, 182, 

197-208, 213, 236-7, 288-91, 296, 
308, 343 

space: communication, 47fF, 60-2; 

eloptic energy', 339—41; exploration, 
radionics and, 339—41; moon, 
radiation belt of, 334-40; 

Spare, Fred, 255 
Spindler, Henri, 277-8 
Spiritual Science, 282-3, 372 
spiritualism, 44-5 
Spencer, Herbert, 91 
Standard Handbook for Electrical 
Engineers (Newman), 177 
Star Markets, 270-1 
Steiner, Rudolf, x, 119, 212, 243, 245, 
-282, 288, 370-2 

Stellartron, 61 
Stephenson, W. A., 268 
stimulus response, 85ff. 
structure, xiii, 341; metamorphosis, 

11 Iff., 161-2; nervous systems, 32, 
65-6, 71-2, 93ff„ 122, 125-6, 187; 
roots, x, 66, 125, 191 
Swann, Ingo, 30 
Swanson, Robert, 32 
Sweden, 108,186 

Switzerland, 65-6, 116, 170, 243, 271-2, 

Sykes, Friend, 231-3, 239, 253 
symbiosis, 236-7, 263—4 
Symphony of Life (Andrews), 161 
Synge, Patrick, 189-90 
Synge, R. L. M., 222 

Tackett, Mrst Arnold C., 195 
Tagore, Rabindranath, 85, 90 
Tarakanova, G. A., 182 
technology, organic farming and, 272-3 
television: programs, 23, 26, 42, 157; 

radiation, xiv, 189ff.; signal delay, 52 
temperature sensitivity, 94, 189,. 270 
Temple Buell College, 15307, 159 
Tesla, Nikola, 48, 360 
Texas, 259-66 
Texas State University, 187 
Theophrastus, 105 

Index 401 

Theosophy, 113, 204, 372 
Thiel, Eldred, 267 
Thomas, Wesley. 212 
Thompson, Silvan us, 165 
Thomson, John Arthur, 100-1 
thought, human: creativity of, 357-8; 
device control, 34ff., 44, 350; 
diagnosis by mental image, 350-1; 
as energy, 30-1; malevolence, 

355-6; power, paranormal (see also 
Psychics), 359-60; radionics and, 
336-7, 348ff.; transference, 359; 
transmission, 4, 186; willed or 
prayerful, effect of, 19-20, 348ff,; 
see also Communication 
Tiller, William A., 206-3, 210, 356-8 
Time, 190 

Times (London), 84-5, 101 
Tirniryazev Academy of Agricultural 
Sciences, 6 Y-6 5 

Tirniryazev, Kliment Arkadieivich, 77 
Tisserant, Cardinal, 296 
Toaldo, Giuseppe, 168 
Tournefort, Joseph Pitton de, 105 
“Training of the Human Plant’’ 
(Burbank), 133-4 
transmutation of elements, 275ff. 
transpiration, x-xi, 167 
Trevelyan, George L., llln, 113-14, 

tropism, 99-100, 125, 155-6 
Tsimbalist, Tatiana, 64 
Tucson Weekend-Reporter, 325 
Tuskegee Institute, 137-40 

UKACO, Inc., 326-32, 338-9 
Ullman, Montague, 205 
ultrasonics, pest control and, 150-1 
ultraviolet, 189-90, 193 
United Kingdom, 51-2, 55-8, 73-4, 
83-97, 100-1, 125-6, 165, 171-4, 
176-7, 182, 189-90, 222-33, 236, 
246-7, 268, 275-7, 286-7, 296, 
307-16, 322, 338, 343-53, 359-71 
unity, universal, 10-11, 24, 85ff, 101-3, 

uni version, 186 

Upton, Curtis P., 323, 325-32, 338-9 
Urorganismus, 113 

van Tassel, George W., 57-8 
Variation of Animals and Plants Under 
Domestication (Darwin), 128 
Vauquelin, Louis Nicolas, 275-6 
Vincent, Warren, 266 
Vines, Sidney Howard, 89-90 
vitamins, 225, 243ff., 256 
Vogel, Marcel, 17-32, 197, 277, 358 
Voisin, Andre, 221-3, 239, 291 

Volta, Alessandro, 169-70, 299 

von Herzeele, Albrecht, 277-8, 281-2 

von Littrow, J. J., 51 

voodoo, 356 

Voysey, 350 

Walczak, V, Michael, 290 
Wallace, George J,, 252 
Wallace, Henry Cantwell, 136 
Waller, Professor, 91, 101 
Walters, Charles, Jr., 272, 291 
Wasserman, G. D., S8 
Waste Products of Agriculture: Their 
Utilization as Humus (Howard), 


water: dew, 310; dowsing, 295ff, 303^4; 
electro-osmosis, 166-7, 178-9; floral 
elixirs, 310-14; soil fertility and, 
260-1, 257; transfer, 73^4 
weather sensitivity, xiii 
Webber, H. J., 131 
weeds, 182, 236-7, 264 
Weeds: Guardians of Soil (Cocannouer), 

Weinberger, Pearl, 151-2, 157 

Weltwoche, 65-6 

West Germany, 270 

West Indies, 226-7 

Westlake, Aubrey, 372 

White, George Starr, 180 

Whittaker, John, 272 

Wieck, John, 265 

Wiggelsworth, G. W., 333-4 

Wiley, Vivian, 19-20 

Williams, Roger J., 253 

Wills, Glen, 334 

Wodehouse, Armine, 370 

Woodlief, C. B., 158 

World's Work, 131 

Worne, Howard, 285-6 

Worrall, Ambrose and Olga, 349-50 

Wrench, G. T., 226 

X-rays, 189 

Yale Medical School, 16 
Yoga, 22-3, 357-8 
Yogananda, Paramahansa, 133 
York (Pa.) Dispatch, 328-9 
Young, Arthur M., 213, 350, 356 

Zabelin, L, 75 

Za Rubezhom (Abroad), 65-6 
Zendavesta (Fechner), 124 
Znaniya Sila (Knowledge Is Power), 

Zook and Ranck, 271 
Zoroastrianism, 124 

402 INDEX 

The Secret Li£e o£ Plants Tompkins and Bird II 

Occult / New Age 

Exploring the world of plants and its relation to mankind as revealed by the latest discoveries of 
scientists, The Secret Life of Plants includes remarkable information about plants as lie detectors and 
plants as ecological sentinels; it describes their ability to adapt to human wishes, their response to 
music, their curative powers, and their ability to communicate with man. Authors Peter Tompkins 
and Christopher Bird suggest that the most far-reaching revolution of the twentieth century-one that 
could save or destroy the planet-may come from the bottom of your garden. 

“Almost incredible ... bristles with plenty of hard facts and astounding scientific and practical lore.” 

-S.K. Oberbeck, Newsweek 

“This fascinating book roams ... over that marvelous no man's land of mystical glimmerings into the 
nature of science and life itself.” - Henry Mitchell, Washington Post Book World 

“In can't ‘get inside a plant’ or ‘feel emanations’ from a plant and don't know anyone else who can, 
that doesn't detract one whit from the possibility that some people can and do .... 

According to The Secret Life of Plants, plants and men do interrelate, with plants exhibiting 
empathetic and spiritual relationships and showing reactions interpreted as demonstrating physical 
force connections with men. As my students say, 'hey, wow!' ” 

-Richard M. Klein, Professor of Botany, 
University of Vermont (in Smithsonian)